We stand in a small room in the back of a tavern with Nareen, the auctioneer and member of the Hand of Yartar looking on. “Congratulations on the winning bid,” she tells us. “The orb is hidden but I am going to need you to leave half of the amount with the barkeep; after I show you where it is, I require the other half. We will do it tomorrow evening here.”
While we are speaking, Traelle begins to make a ruckus. She moans, grasps her stomach, and nearly collapses. Quick thinking despite her obvious pain, she tosses the bag of holding with nearly all our gold to Rinn, before running out the door.
We wrinkle our noses at the smell and stare as everyone but Rinn rolls their eyes at the Paladin’s continued discomfort. I glance at Thirin, and silently thank the Seldarine that he managed to recover from the disease much quicker. Whatever it is, I doubt any healers have ever seen it before. Perhaps when they figure out its cause, they will name it for her.
Turning to Nareen, I ask, “Can I ask how you came across this item? For we are interested in others as well.”
At this, she only smiles.
Drak’Thal, always interested in the most important of information, asks the woman “Which bar do you think has the best specialty drink?”
Annoyed by the little man, she curtly replies, “I don’t drink specials.”
As we four remaining Keepers turn to leave, we hear glass break. I turn my head and see a broken window at the back of the room. Nareen clutches her shoulder as a crossbow bolt digs deep into it.
One of her guards runs toward us, “We saw an arrow? Did your friend have a crossbow? Was this your friend who did this?”
Stunned that anyone would think sweet innocent Traelle could ever harm anything, we stand silent for a few moments while trying to figure out if she had ever used a crossbow. “If she has,” I think, “she has never hit anything with it. That shot is beyond her.” Before we can answer, Drak’Thal, steps forward and heals Nareen. Convinced more by Drak’Thal’s actions than our words, Nareen coldly states “Illyria that bitch. She is another Hand. She must have found another buyer. We need to go now. I’ll take the money first, though.” After Rinn hands it to her, she puts it in lockbox before placing that box inside of another lockbox. She grabs her sword and departs for the market as we do the same.
Filled with colorful stalls and smells and still rife with activity despite the late hour, the market seems like a good place for an assassin to hide. Nareen scans the area for her quarry but does not see her. “Fan out,” the Hand says, “She is a blonde blue eyes. Looks like an Amazonian woman.”
Rinn of the gifted eyesight, immediately spots her. “Is that her?” Is that the bitch?
Nareen nods and we approach. The woman stares at Nareen before saying, “Looks like you have found some new friends. I’ve already sold it to the Kraken Society.”
“Kill the bitch,” Nareen yells to us.
I immediately pull out my bow and cast hunter’s mark on Illyria. I nock two arrows and fire. The first immediately appears headed directly for her chest but the nimble rogue managed to spin so that it only hit her arm as the second arrow flew over her head. As she regained her footing, Illyria runs forward and disappears. Suddenly, she reappears behind Nareen, her two blades stuck in her rival’s torso. Nareen cries in pain.
Illyria’s two grizzled veterans pull out swings her scythe at Illyria; Nareen does the same. Thrin, with his expertly placed unicorn on the loincloth runs around the melee to give me a better shot. Bless him. He is learning. I can see the anger and power raging through him as he raises his great axe above his head and brings it down on Illyria’s body. She immediately drops her weapon as Thirin continues to push the blade through her flesh. He splits her in half as the shit flows from her body.
Nearly dead, Nareen just stares at the barbarian as Drak’Thal walks up and heals her again. “I want out,” she tells us. “I will tell you where the orb is but I am not doing this any longer.”
I turn to her and say, “She mentioned it had already been sold to the Kraken. Is there anything you can tell us about them?”
“It is an underground smuggling ring. I am certain that they are already going to get the orb.” As she speaks, Nareen draws us a map to the graveyard and marks an “X” on a mausoleum. “This is where you will find the orb.” She hands Rinn the map and then kneels to search both halves of Illyria’s body. She finds six emeralds and hands two of them to Rinn. Drak’Thal then glances at the body and picks up a dull shortsword as Nareen hands the mausoleum’s key to Rinn.
We walk east through the town’s market to the cemetery. As we approach the city’s wall, we see that it has long been neglected. Vines and gnarled trees grow over the stone, nearly toppling it in places. As we enter the cemetery, we see three human men standing by the mausoleum near the back. As we approach we see in the shadows a hulking figure almost eight feet tall and hidden beneath a sodden cloak.
“No closer friends,” the man near the door says. “This is a private matter and we do not wish to be disturbed.”
“Sir,” Drak’Thal says, “we paid for this orb fair and square.”
“I don’t see you lining my pockets with any gold.”
“Is it still here,” Drak’Thal asks.
The man gives the Halfling a strange look before saying, “We haven’t opened the door yet. Turn and leave and you will keep your lives.”
“You turn and leave and you will keep your lives,” Drak’Thal retorts.
His patience expired, the man turns to the cloaked figure. “Kill them Galad.” As soon as he does, the creature rips off the cloak revealing a monstrous body shaped like a man but with the head and fins of a fish.
As the monster removes his cloak, I pull out my bow and fire an arrow at the man in front of me. It hits him directly in the chest. Meanwhile, the fish monster moves forward and tries to bite Rinn. He misses but then he pulls out a wire and wraps it around our rogue’s neck. As he garrotes her, he lifts her from the ground by her brown and purple hair. While Rinn’s legs flail and she grasps for air, Galad takes his shortsword and stabs her repeatedly. Fortunately, Rinn, through the grace of the Raven Queen, manages to swing her legs hard enough to break free. As she lands, she pulls out her scythes and slashes at his finned legs.
Seeing the Shadar-Kai in such a state, Drak’Thal mumbles a few words and heals her before sprinting out to the center of the melee. He pulls out his hammer, chants to Talos, and smashes the ground. As he does so, a wave of lightening and deafening thunder explodes from his hammer, killing two of the soldiers immediately and knocking Galad onto the ground. Everyone, including the other Keepers of the Realm, pauses and just stares at the tiny man and his hammer.
Thirin regains his focus first and rushes towards the fish-man and attacks him while he wriggles on the ground. The surviving guard pulls out a crossbow and fires at Drak’Thal before I fire an arrow through his skull. Galad stands and throws his shortsword at the man with the hammer before turning to bite Rinn’s face. He manages to rip off part of her flesh but as he does so Rinn slices across his neck with her scythes. His head wobbles a little as if she almost cut it off. Drak’Thal and Thirin swing at Galad but both miss before I lodge two arrows in his disgusting fish eyes. As Galad falls to the ground, his fish head finally dislodges from his body. As his body flaps in the last throws of death, I bend down and retrieve my arrows from his eyes. As I clean them of their fish blood, I see the tiny Drak’Thal look up to me with his pouting eyes. I sigh, nod my head to the Halfling and say, “Alright. That kill counts as yours.” Relieved, Drak’Thal smiles and skips away.
Rinn opens the mausoleum’s door. The name on the crypt has long since washed away and as we enter we find bare walls and a casket. Thirin and Rinn both look around but it is Drak’Thal who finds the object of our search: a box, exuding magic and emblazoned with the symbols of the water cult. We walk towards it but do not pick it up.
The rest of the Keepers look at Rinn and I as the two of us awkwardly stand near the crate too afraid to make the first move. Drak’Thal, however, has no such fear. He walks over to the box, wraps it up, and insists that it is now his. Rinn and I turn to each other and nearly simultaneously agree that we can’t put off this discussion any longer—despite Drak’Thal’s insistence that we immediately return to the safety of town where he can purchase a pearl.
“Assuming that this is the same item as the one that has been set off in Daggerford and Glassmoor,” Rinn begins, “then I don’t think we have any option other than to give it to Kline and Adeline. If it is something else, then I would really appreciate it if we could give it to my faction.”
“And I would like to give it to my faction,” I curtly reply.
“What are they going to do with it” Rinn asks.
“Prevent your faction from getting it and selling it to the highest bidder.”
At this, Thirin, who has been watching the door, interjects, “Well if it is not the thing that says it is the thing…” before trailing off when he realizes nobody cares.
“Can we just take the box to the….” Drak’Thal says before being cut off by Rinn.
“I prefer to make up for the previous debacle between our factions by handing it to mine.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
At this, Drak’Thal sits down and pulls out a piece of bread and starts chewing. “This is going to be good,” he says.
“Are you familiar with what happened to your cousin” Rinn asks me.
“I know he got his tongue branded for talking or something.”
“Yeah,” Rinn angrily says, “he notified the Harpers about one of my factions’ missions but I was unable to accompany them. When they arrived after being attacked numerous times along the way, they found some dead Harpers. He apologized later but I didn’t really want to hear it.”
“So, you were…” I start to say before thinking better of accusing her of anything improper.
“He was branded for speaking to his faction and hurting another party member,” she tells me.
Though not exactly stunned by this information, I take a moment to think of the implications. She should get the orb if possible, I conclude, but only if it will be safe. “So what do you think will happen if your faction gets it?” I ask.
“I don’t think it is dangerous in handing it over,” she replies. “Though I am not sure what either of us will tell our factions. I guess we will have to discuss that with Kline and the King when we return.”
“I don’t think it would serve the interests of anyone for your faction to get this item and, as similar as we might be, I am not my cousin and I will not pay for his sins.”
“That is fair, but…”
Not wanting to hear her reply, I quickly cut her off to ask the most important question, “What do you think will happen to you if you fail to deliver?”
“I don’t know. If I fail a second time I don’t think they will be as merciful as last time”
“There is less risk involved with…” I start to say.
“Is there less risk involved really?” Rinn sarcastically asks.
“Yeah I think so.”
As we discuss, Drak’Thal starts to look even crazier than usual and begins complaining about spending so much time in another crypt. He insists the it is not even ours to give away that, if it is not the orb, he might just keep it. I roll my eyes and assume that Rinn would roll her if she could.
“Are you waiting for me to threaten him at knife point or something?” Rinn asks the Halfling. “I can’t let up, I have to take it back,” she keeps repeating as if to herself but so that everyone can hear. Turing back to me, Rinn says, “I don’t want to fail again. Is that not a reason enough?”
Annoyed at the thinly veiled threat, I tell her, “And I don’t want to fail at all.”
“I need it, Rinn says as she steps forward an inch. Mildly intimidated by the slightest of forward movement, I relent. “Okay. For now. Let’s see what it is though.”
As we decide, Drak’Thal reluctantly hands Thirin five gold because of Rinn’s victory. Fortunately, neither Rinn nor I see this.
As we walk out of the crypt, I glare at the Shadar-Kai and think “Bitch Bitch Bitch. Bitch. Bitch. Bitch. Didn’t have to threaten me. I would have given it to you eventually.”
As the Keepers walk into the market so that Drak’Thal can purchase a pearl, I tell my companions that I will meet them after I discuss the orb with my contact. I enter and tell the woman behind the desk that though we have secured the orb, there might be difficulty in getting it to the requested destination. The woman then warms me of repercussions should I fail in this quest. At that, I annoyed with Rinn’s threats and worried about the risks of giving the orb to the Zhentarim, venture to the bar, say “fuck it,” and order a FireWine. It tastes somewhat like pinot noir but mostly like Frankenberry with beef testicles. It is the most revolting thing I have ever tasted but I down it in one gulp, burning my mouth and throat by doing so. Immediately, I feel both incredibly excited and depressed.
We assemble at the Western Gate and leave Yartar for good. As we walk along the road I think of the Knights I am supposed to meet along the Triboar Trail but without the orb, there is no point in visiting them.
Several hours later, we stop to rest so that Drak’Thal can identify the contents of the chest. As Traelle heads into the bushes and Thirin pulls out his totem, Rinn and I stare at the Halfling as if our lives depend on it. For what seems like an eternity, Drak’Thal weaves his magic over the box before sitting it down very gently. “Don’t touch it,” he tells us. “It is a devastation orb. This one is fire just like the one that hit Daggerford. It will make a devastating explosion that will decimate an area in 82 hours.”
Rinn and I glance at each other with a look of relief. “This to going to Kline,” we agree. As we begin the long walk to Wyrmwood, we apologize to each other and talk. 10 days later, we arrive at Wyrmwood’s Eastern Gate. As we approach, Rinn and I see a Zhentarim and Harper waiting for us. They pull as to the side as the rest of the Keepers head for the Keep. Both faction members have the same words for us: you have failed. They take our faction insignias and kick us out. As they leave, Rinn and I walk towards each other before silently making our way to the Keep.
Without waiting to be admitted into the Throne Room, Drak’thal opens the door and he and the Goliath storm into the throne room, catching the King but not his guards unaware. The guards train their crossbows on the two. “We have the orb that we were sent for by the Zhenetarim and the Harpers,” Drak’Thal yells without bowing. Quickly realizing who it is, the King signals the guardsmen that he is safe and lets the Halfling continue. “This is a devastation orb much like the one that we saw in Daggerford,” Drak’Thal says, “We should probably speak to Kline. Where is he?”
“He is in his office where he has been the entire time.”
“May we speak with him.”
“You know where his office is?”
Drak’Thal suggests that they do but as he and Thirin prepare to leave, the King speaks up once again. “You probably,” he says in a calm but especially threatening voice, “don’t want to raise your voice to the King ever again.” Drak’Thal nods and then, for the first time, bows before he and Thirin leave.
Just a few moments after Drak’Thal and Thirin depart the throne room, Rinn and I enter. Rinn bows her head slightly. I bow deeper. After the exalted Bronzehammer mentions the bow to us, Rinn curtseys, perhaps sarcastically because I have never seen a her perform such a motion before.
Addressing the King as if he were a friend, Rinn asks, “Were the small one and the very big one here?”
“Aye,” his majesty says. “They want to see Kline.”
I then step forward and say, “Your majesty, we have a problem.” After informing him of the situation and Rinn and I’s loss of faction, I propose a solution: invite representatives from both factions to study it with Kline and Adeline. Intrigued by the proposition, the King tells us to make Kline decide.
Rinn and I walk silently to Kline’s room. We find the others first; apparently, they had been wandering the halls for thirty minutes because they had no idea that Kline’s door was hidden to look exactly like the wall. Rinn pushes on a stone and Kline’s door opens. After Adeline gives him a kiss on the forehead, Drak’Thal unwraps the box and sets it on Kline’s desk. Unaware of the Keeper’s journey, Kline says, “what the fuck?”
Drak’Thal explains what he told us on the road and why we went to procure it. Kline looks at both of us and we explain that we have been both been kicked out because we brought the orb here. I explain our plan to Kline who asks Adeline if she would agree to it. She does, but first, I have to run to my faction and discover who the Knights I had avoided on the way back to Wyrmwood were. Apparently, they were the same Knights of Talandrossa sent to aid the Keepers before they entered the Temple of the Howling Winds. The orb was stolen from them and the Harpers desired me to return it.
With this information, Drak’Thal immediately messages the Knights’ commander that the orb is safe with Kline. The commander messages back that it was stolen from a fire cult that was to detonate it in Beliard.” After pondering the new information, Kline turns to me, “I like your idea. Adeline will be primary lead on the investigation of the orb, they will utilize the Zhenetrim caravan to take it to the scholars. With protection from the Harpers. And after the study the Zhenetrim and the Harpers and Adeline to hand it over to the Talandrossa knights commander who will in turn give it to the king.” As he speaks, Kline writes this in two writs. He hands Rinn and I each one and tells us to take them to our factions.
Adeline and Drak’Thal go to her room and as the door shuts, Adeline says, “I have missed you. I have some news for you. I’ve been throwing up every morning.”
“Are you sick.”
“No, I wish. You’re going to be a daddy.”
Stunned by the news of his bastard child, Drak’Thal responds, “Oh god. Uhhhhhhhhh.”
Clearly knowing how to connect with her little man’s ego, Adeline tells him, “Just think a little Drak’Thal.”
His narcissism assuaged, Drak’Thal recovers, “This is amazing. Another one of me. Aye. I’m happy about it.”
“We should celebrate,” Adeline whispers.
Completely oblivious to the woman’s tone, Drak’Thal responds by distancing himself from her, “How do you intend to celebrate?”
“Have some more sex.”
Whether concerned about his length or simply displaying the limited knowledge of anatomy that followers of Talos possess, Drak’Thal replies, “Will it be okay? Am I going to hit it?”
“I believe the doctor’s said it will be okay.”
Hearing this, Drak’Thal immediately begins to undress. As he thrusts his hips repeatedly, a finger, unknown whose, slips behind.
Meanwhile King Bronzehammer sits on his throne. As the crashing and the sounds of what under normal circumstances might be mistaken for howler monkeys begins, he says to himself, “Oh my god. Not again. I need to get the fuck out of this keep.”
After several hours of amazing, finger in the ass fucking, Drak’Thal turns to the mother of his child and says, “I have another present for you. I’ll be back.” As he walks to Gilmore’s to retrieve her present, the Halfling contemplates the news that he will be a father again.
When he enters Gilmore’s, the shopkeep addresses him, “You are back my friend.” Proud of his recent activities, Drak’Thal boasts that he has been spreading the word of Gilmore’s Glorious Goods through the magic of posters. “I have noticed,” Gilmore tells him, “an increase in halflings coming in. A little strange.”
“That is odd” the cleric exclaims. “Why is that?”
Gilmore thinks for a few moments before delicately noting the Halfling’s small stature. Smiling, Drak’Thal replies, “I’ll have Thirin do it for me.” As Gilmore signals that Thirin might be a tad too tall to reach most customers, Drak’Thal says, “Maybe Elurin.”
Drak’Thal then asks about the request he made of Gilmore on his last visit. The man pulls out a necklace with a lightening bolt and a diamond. “I hope she likes it,” he says before handing it to Drak’Thal.
“Thank you,” Drak’Thal replies before leaving and waddling back to Adeline. “Got something for you,” he says as he pushes open the door.
“What is it?”
“I had this made once for a good friend,” he indelicately tells her.
“Recycling a gift?”
“I had it remade for you. It means a lot to me.”
She stares at it. Smiles and puts it on. “I love it.” As the woman he loves puts on the necklace with a lightning bolt of Talos that he originally had made for Traelle, the bulge in the Halfling’s breeches grows.
As the howling and crashing begin anew, somewhere in the Keep a King curses the Keepers of the Realm.
Rinn and I silently leave the Keep together. As we turn towards our respective faction houses, we glance at each other as if to say good luck. Nearly simultaneously, we enter our houses and present Kline’s writ to the member behind the desk. They each read it, ponder it for what seems like an eternity, before asking us each a question. “Whose idea was this?”
“The King’s,” Rinn lies.
“Mine,” I say.
In our respective rooms, the men behind the desks look at us before saying, “Tell Kline he owes us a favor” and welcoming us into back into our factions with a higher rank. I am now a Bright Candle of the Harpers and Rinn is a Viper for the Zhentarim.
Afterwards, we meet as planned in the Whistling Pig. We each purchase a cheap ale and sit down to chat. Over the ale, we chat about our earlier conversation. As I grow a little drunk, I stare at her and ask, “Is Alatar’s actions with the Harpers the reason why you waited to bring him back from the dead?”
Stunned that I knew about that, Rinn replies, “That creature that sucked the life from him, I hesitated because…we had all discussed you know if something like that happened.”
“Well, thank you,” I say as I raise my glass.
As we leave the Whistling Pig and make our way back to the Keep to inform Kline of the good news, we see Thirin’s massive and unmistakable form through the crowd. I immediately notice that he looks good. His hair is cut and the dirt and grime from the road is missing. I briefly think, “so, he is letting others clean him now,” but the jealousy soon subsides and I smile and ask him, “Do you think we should visit the baths as well?” Thirin hesitates briefly and it becomes obvious that he is trying to spare our feelings. Kindly but certainly, Thirin tells Rinn and I that we stink and that it would be to the benefit of everyone if we too ventured into the baths.
Again wasting money, Rinn bathes in private but I enjoy the sites of the common bath, including an especially hot elf man. I briefly consider sauntering over to him but, thinking of Thirin’s feelings, decide not to, yet. Perhaps if I see him again.
Later that day, we all meet in Kline’s room. Rinn and I inform him of the good news but forget to tell him that he owes each faction a favor.
When we arrive at Glassmoor, we are greeted by a massive crowd of Talos worshippers. Drak’Thal starts to speak in that booming voice he sometimes uses. “This land is your land,” he tells them, “This land is my land. Talos is happy when the skies are gray. You will never know my followers….” I’m sure he continued but I lost interest after the first twenty seconds. As he concludes, however, the crowd starts to yell about rumors. Apparently Adeline was seen at the infirmary and a new prophet will be born soon. The rest of the Keepers just stare at Drak’Thal as the crowd tells him congratulations. When we reach the inside of Glassmoor, we confront him but he tells us, “She must have caught something from Traelle.” As he says this, I think, “and that something is going to be a new prophet of Talos—sounds about right” but keep silent. We all believe him and go to sleep after speaking with Taranath about the ten days it will take to get the Keep operational.
The next morning, we decide to go see Kringle to negotiate our next contract. Before we do, Thirin visits the Talos worshippers and introduces himself before handing out all the posters for Gilmore’s. As he does so, I can almost see Drak’Thal hit his face with the palm of his hand.
After some hot chocolatey cocoa and banter about the necessity of protecting and helping the children, I use my newfound negotiation skills to secure 4600 for the first month, 3600 in the second, 2600 in the third, and 1600 thereafter. In exchange, we will build a shrine at Glassmoor that must be completed by the 870th day. As we leave, I applaud Kringle on the health of his elk. He informs us that he is trying to enchant them to fly. We agree that that would make a lot of children happy. Once outside, I conjure a herd of elk from the Feywild which we ride back to Glassmoor.
The next day, we, as everyone has already come to expect, go to Gilmore’s to inquire about the longbow. We spend an eternity debating the possibilities but conclude that we do not yet have enough money to purchase the weapon, even if we sell the elven chain mail I am wearing. We leave after procuring some new armor, enchanted arrows, and healing potions. That night, most of us—including Rinn for what must seem like the first time in forever—spend fucking. Traelle, presumably, spent the evening shitting herself. The next morning, we board the Keeper’s Oath and head to the Southern Continent.