The destination decided, Syl chose to stay at the inn and study Dimension Door; when he heard of Foradjinn’s intended trip back to the mage’s guild to procure spells, he asked the bard to inquire after the habits and weaknesses of black dragons.
Igneel, meanwhile, expressed an interest in owning a longbow. Foradjinn handed him the one made for him in Lylillin and the monk announced he was going out to practice. Tinuviel, catching on to his enthusiasm, steered him toward the archery range at the keep and spent some time instructing him. After quite a few misses, Igneel sheepishly explained it had been a considerable amount of time since he last practiced.
Heading out the door of the Gleaming Star, the sound of familiar clanking footsteps caught up with Foradjinn and Kaven joined him on his errand. They walked in silence for a minute until Kaven motioned toward the new weapon and shield and explained their origins. Then, with a serious look, he asked, “Do you trust Gwendolyn and Tinuviel?”
The bard, confused, asked him to explain.
Over the last day or so since they met the half-elf and her commander, Kaven felt suspicion rising within him. “It doesn’t seem like she cares about us,” he said of the latter. “We gave her information and she sends us to retrieve more information. I think,” he shook his head, “We should take the information and go on our own to wherever we need to, instead of doing what she wants.”
“What do you want in the end?” Foradjinn asked. “In the end, I want to help Anaya. We found her and she doesn’t want to go back to what she was before. But neither does she want to stay.” He nodded ahead toward the docks and the guild. “So, I’ll leave her a way if she ever decides to leave. I will come back and help her.” His voice cracking slightly, he sighed. “I don’t know anyone here who can help her – maybe Tinuviel and Gwendolyn can.”
The bard further confessed his lack of strength in combat but was gratified to discover his ability to help greater than he had among his old tribe.
Any more character development would have to wait as they approached the guild. Outside, Mouse stood before a raven-haired woman clad in rich blue robes. Magic glowed from her fingers and she cast it with a word toward the goliath. Whitish-azure energy struck him but he shrugged, much to her annoyance.
In fear for the goliath’s safety, Kaven tackled the woman and after much irritated explanation, it was revealed this woman’s name was Reina and she was testing out spells on the goliath. Mouse confirmed this and assured the worried halfling he was all right. “It’s what I do.” His shoulders lifted again in indifference.
“Who are you two, anyway?” Reina demanded. The bard introduced himself along with Kaven and the wizard narrowed her eyes. She had heard of them from Lander and had quite a few things to say on the subject. She expounded at some length on the high cost of enchanting, the complications of magical calligraphy, and the carelessness of guild leaders who did not take the time to examine price of time, labor, and materials of same to the extent which she, the enchanter, did. “So those prices he quoted you?” She made a rude noise with her lips. “Way too low. If you want the items, you’ll have to pay more.” Diatribe finished, she turned again to Mouse and raised her hands, the same energy forming at her fingers. This time, the light was brighter and Mouse appeared a little more worried.
Reina, however, did not know of Kaven’s ability to extend a little magical protection to nearby allies. The crackling bolt lanced out from the wizard’s fingers and fizzled away from the goliath’s form, much to her consternation. However, as Foradjinn and Kaven entered the guild, an even louder crackling bolt and a yelp from Mouse announced Reina’s success as the aura moved out of range.
Inside, Lander affirmed Reina’s warnings.
Foradjinn shrugged and paid him for the scroll of sending and the scroll of conjure minor elemental for Syl. “Now, what can you tell us of Black Dragons?”
The tactical information proved to be sparse; most of the dragonborn’s knowledge concerned the scientific and biological. A few interesting facts did stand out: “They are greedy bullies, yearning to torture and feeding upon fear. They’ll steal things just so they can have something and you cannot.” Furthermore, the presence of a black dragon would despoil the landscape, befouling water and the terrain for miles, and attracting evil creatures close.
Foradjinn and Kaven thanked the guild master and left. On the way out, they examined a cypress-smelling cauldron, stirred by a grumpy alchemist who told them it was a potion of enlargement. Foradjinn considered Kaven for a moment and said, “Your armor wouldn’t fit.”
Outside, they nodded goodbye to a battered-looking Mouse and a jubilant Reina and headed into the city. Kaven stopped a gruff, ripped halfling and asked for a restaurant recommendation. The friendly dockhand directed him to Tommy’s where “the portions are bigger than you.”
The hungry halfling parted ways with the half-elf, finding the blue-collar establishment full of his ilk and indeed generous amounts of food. Later in the evening, an elf struck up some lively music to an accommodating and foot-tapping crowd.
Foradjinn returned to the Gleaming Star and went from there with Tinuviel to the Bottom of the Barrel. The seedy establishment boasted a friendly bartender and delicious food. The Hawk asked her contacts in the bar to send word if they found Geoffry, the wayward pig farmer missing since the solstice festival some time ago.
Back at the Gleaming Star, Igneel grew bored and paid seventeen gold to try one of every drink. The bartender obliged with the inevitable result being one drunk monk being carried up to his room.
The next morning, Syl rose from his meditation to cast sending to Anaser, his friend in Asher Dan. “Are the rumors of increased orc strength true?” He asked. “Should we bring help and is there a teleportation circle available?”
“The orcs are indeed stronger,” came the reply. “There are a number of wounded. The teleportation circle outside the east entrance is available.” Syl found that most curious as they normally allowed direct teleportation to the inner city. Non-elf visitors were relegated to the east entrance.
The group gathered and ascended to hill to the keep, a hungover Igneel wincing at the noise. They arrived to a crowd of Sentinals gearing up and preparing to march out. Apparently, the town Dog Harbor to the north had been attacked by a white dragon. Tinuviel introduced the group to her inquisitor Beren and the grateful man offered them healing potions. He directed them to a good arms merchant for arrows and confirmed they could cast sending to him with information they discovered in Telfore.
After a minor delay in which Foradjinn dropped off various pelts to the tanners, the group teleported to Telfore via the mage’s guild.
Lander had mentioned they would meet the only wizard in Telfore, a gnome called Yavin. True to his word, they materialized in Yavin’s house, the gnome hopping down from a chair to shake their hands. He adjusted his beret and shrugged when they asked him about the dragon. “It’s pretty bad. The fishing fleet is too scared to go out any more, ‘cept for Captain Scarriff. He’s the only one who’ll sail the tributaries down to the sea and back again. Anyone else who thought they could attempt that was frightened off even more when the dragon picked up half a ship and carried it off.” Yavin shuddered. “It usually comes from the west but you’d better talk to Mayor Jakku. He can tell you more.” He shuffled his feet and the party got the impression he didn’t go out much.
Telfore stood above various streams and channels of the bayou. Boardwalks and catwalks wound around homes and shops, divided into a higher level, which they had exited onto from Yavin’s home, and a lower level. The humidity hit hard, a persistent mugginess aggravated by the swarms of mosquitoes.
In the center of the city, the catwalks joined together in a sort of conglomeration of eating areas and restaurants. These were clustered around a humongous roaring fire. Foradjinn spotted a few workers feeding logs into the flames and identified the wood as citronella, perfect for driving off airborne pests. Diners of various races and occupations filled the tables, eating and conversing; one table caught Tinuviel’s eye – six gnomes all talking in low voices together.
Kaven ordered catfish with grits and discovered from the fry chef that the one who knew the surrounding swamps the best was a crazy individual by the name of Alder. “You’d have to take a boat to find him,” the chef said. “Careful, though. All those potions and magic he does – dangerous.”
At a stand which boasted Doner Swamp Goat, Foradjinn tried to talk to the vendor but evidently burned his bridges when he mentioned their party came through the teleportation circle in Yavin’s house. The only other information he gave was to Tinuviel, saying the gnomes made “devices” and lived “downstairs” or on the low level catwalks. The swamp goat was delicious.
Tinuviel, still curious about the gnomes, struck up a conversation with a friendly dwarven fruit vendor. She took a liking to the half-elf and confirmed the rest of the rumors. Business was bad due to lack of shipments making it through the dragon blockade, Scarriff was a crazy captain who’d had the most success doing so, etc. However, the dwarf did mention the druids were worried about the townsfolk pulling too much from the ocean. She also expanded upon Alder, saying he turned eccentric once his wife passed away.
Igneel found a bread merchant and discovered the delights of challah bread with cinnamon and sugar, with cheese, and with salt.
After buying a round of drinks for the gnome tables who accepted with guarded politeness, Tinuviel returned to the rest of the party. Igneel followed, burdened with several dozen slices of fresh challah. Over lunch, they exchanged the information each had gleaned and aimed to visit the mayor’s house after the meal.
The mayor’s house exuded a quiet opulence. The wrought-iron gate had been carved with an insignia including the letters J and M. Beyond the gate, the open courtyard was well-tended and the house featured tall, white pillars. Knocking on the door, they were greeted by an elfin, ebony-haired beauty named Moncalla. Leading them through the vast entryway, she ushered them into a drawing room and left to bring them lemonade as the mayor entered.
Jakku was a portly man, impeccably dressed. His melancholic features and scruffy brown hair and sideburns spoke of a multitude of worries and tribulations. Still, the element of youth placed his age somewhere in his thirties, they guessed. After introductions and explanations, he leaned back in his chair. “Our best reports have the beast coming from the west at every attack,” he said. “Since the Conquered Dawn was torn asunder two weeks ago, no other ship has attempted to run the blockade.”
“What about Scarriff?” Tinuviel remembered the rumors of the crazy captain.
“Except for him. He’s currently out now.” Spreading his hands, Jakku half-smiled. “He’s somehow keeping the fish coming and that’s how we’re holding on.”
The talk turned to ease of transportation around the area. Jakku mentioned the gnomes had a network of tunnels which might prove of use should they prove trustworthy. “Alder would know. He’s to the northwest. The druids to the east could possibly help. To get to either of them, you’ll need a skiff. Speak to Rishie.” His brow furrowed. “Any other questions I can answer?”
Opening his bag, Igneel produced a few battered slices of challah. “Would you like some bread?” The stout mayor happily accepted.