As the rest of the party headed toward the mage’s guild in the waterfront, Kaven turned from the direction of the inn and asked his way to the local Yondalla temple. The paladin soon found himself outside a grassy mound near the southern wall. A door in the mound held a beautiful crested shield emblem.
Knocking at the door, Kaven was greeted by another halfling. The balding, gentle-faced individual introduced himself as “Lexend.”
“I’m Kaven.” Kaven hitched Cleo to the post outside and entered.
“Yes, yes,” Lexend closed the door behind him. “She said you would come. Welcome.”
“She? She who?”
“Yondalla.” Beckoning, the cleric led the way down a passage of beautiful brickwork interspersed with decorations of granite. At the end, they sat in a simple sanctuary of wooden benches facing a table at one side. Lexend sat upon one and Kaven joined him. “Tell me, Kaven, what brings you here?”
All of Kaven’s doubts poured forth. He confessed to not hearing Yondalla’s voice lately, feeling as though he had no direction. The right action which drove him into fleeing to the forest and being called by Yondalla seemed to cause a big mess and turn the world upside down.
Lexend chuckled at that. “Yes, I’ve found doing the right thing causes the biggest messes.” He leaned back, studying the paladin. “You have a role, Kaven. That role can only be filled with your unique skills.”
“Should I continue to be a paladin? Could I stay here and help you with all of this?” Kaven gestured around.
“You…could.” Standing, Lexend motioned for Kaven to follow. “However, I will say from what I have heard you could do so much more as you are now.” He moved back down the passage and paused at the entrance to another they had passed. “But in the end it is up to you.” Down this dimmer-lit passage, they walked until they arrived at two open doorways. “Yondalla can show you your choices within these. There is no wrong choice between them and either has consequences, not negative.” He clapped Kaven on the shoulder, turned, and headed back up the passage. “I shall wait.”
Kaven considered. Both rooms were empty. However, as the sounds of Lexend’s footsteps faded, a soft breeze wafted past the paladin, leading toward the room on the left. In the left room appeared a pillar, carved and resplendent. Upon the pillar under glass lay an ornate warhammer, three runes in gold and Yondalla’s symbol set in it. A shadow swirled and formed into a spear above it. It thrust down and struck the glass, cracking it.
In the room to the right, the breeze kicked up again. From shadows there formed a woman, bent under the weight of a sack. A dark figure materialized near her and lashed out. She fell and this figure also raised a spear about to strike-
“So where is the mage’s guild?” Syl asked, an eager gleam in his eye.
Tinuviel motioned as they approached the docks. Various races talked, shouted orders, moved crates. The smell of the sea, refuse, seaweed, and fish perfumed the air. In the middle of one of the docks, a not-quite-ramshackle-but-still-how-is-that-standing building towered over the scene. Coming closer, the party could make out various windows set above the first floor. Some were frosted with cold, others issuing slight fog.
“What is the nature of the relationship between the Crown and the mage’s guild?” Syl asked as Tinuviel knocked.
“No ill will between us,” the half-elf shrugged. “We’ve got a functional relationship.”
The door squeaked open and they entered to a strong, acrid odor. What could only described as rotten eggs mixed with body odor caused their eyes to water. At the landing of a stair set landing, they caught a glimpse of slippered feet disappearing upstairs, accompanied by colorful grumbling.
From a door to their left, a towering goliath ducked under the door frame and regarded them with an inquisitive look. Tinuviel mentioned Lander and the goliath nodded, beckoning them to follow. In the next room, the furnishings exuded wealth. Scarlet and velvet couches and chairs were arranged for comfortable conversation throughout the parlor. The goliath motioned them to sit and opened another door across from them.
A scarlet-scaled dragonborn entered, adjusting rich green robes. “Hello! I am Lander.” He sat in a chair next to them.
Clearing his throat, the goliath cocked his head. “Anything else, boss?” he asked in a surprisingly high voice.
“Thank you, no, Mouse.”
He nodded and left.
Lander listened as his visitors described their encounter in the drop. His brow furrowed at the description of the giant frogs. “Hmmm. What you fought is known as a Banderhob.” He tapped his claw against his fangs. “One Banderhob could be accidental, or a wizard exerting great power for a specific task. But two, you say…two is very worrying indeed.” Rising, he paced, mumbling aloud. “And you say it was sent to kill prisoners?”
“Yes. Maybe there’s something in the Drop they’re protecting?” Syl drummed his fingers on the chair arms.
“Perhaps, perhaps.” They tossed a few ideas back and forth until Lander nodded to himself. “Well, at any rate, I must talk with Gwendolyn. Tinuviel,” he looked to the half-elf Hawk, “Would you tell her we must meet?”
“Two creatures show intentionality,” Lander mumbled. Sitting again, he brightened. “Now, is there anything else I can do for you?”
Foradjinn bounced some ideas for a scroll of sending or like artifacts off of him and the dragonborn wizard said the guild could work something out. Lander was most excited at Syl’s powers and abilities toward enchanting and the two promised to call upon each other and collaborate on some future projects.
Their errand over, Foradjinn announced he would go and sell his fire opal. With Syl’s assurance he would enchant the bard’s shield, Foradjinn took the wizard’s to sell for him as well. He and Igneel headed toward the merchant district, Tinuviel headed back to the keep to report to Gwendolyn, and Syl returned to the Gleaming Star in order to begin enchanting.
Kaven, meanwhile, hurled a javelin at the figure about to strike the woman.
The pillar and glorious hammer in the room to his left dissipated as the figure turned, revealing itself as a towering, red-skinned demon. It roared and advanced toward him. Though staggered by the power of the dark one’s commanding voice, Kaven charged. The ensuing duel wore the paladin down but he gave as good as he got. The desperate dark one whirled and ran the prone woman through, stabbing the Paladin into unconsciousness as he attempted to intervene.
Darkness washed over Kaven as he fell to the ground, warhammer loose in his hands. The demon chuckled, raising his spear to stab again.
And then, a female voice, kind and soft, whispered, “Kaven.”
Time slowed around the prone paladin, the voice continuing. “Kaven, do you now see why I chose you? You gave your life for a woman you did not know. Now…stand. Fight. Finish what you started.”
Radiant blazing from his form, Kaven leaped up much to the demon’s panic. It flinched away from the light and the paladin swung with his warhammer. Embers sparking from the passage of the weapon, the demon staggered back, screaming, “NO!” With another swing, Kaven put an end to the dark one at last. Its body disappeared in sparks and shadows, along with the woman’s body.
In the sudden lull, over the sound of his harsh breathing, Kaven turned to the sound of footsteps once more. Lexend entered. “You look terrible!” he greeted him. “What happened?”
Kaven told him and the cleric smiled. “Let me see your hammer.”
The paladin handed it to him and was surprised to see it had transformed into the hammer he had seen before in the other room. The smile on the cleric’s face widened. “She is with you, son.” He handed it back. “As you are in here, I see you have made your choice and I come to offer you another. Once again, there is no wrong answer. Offense or defense?”
Lexend pointed at the paladin’s shield. The symbol of Yondalla appeared in softly shining white gold upon the steel of Old Haré.
“I still don’t understand,” Kaven confessed. “I can fight the demons and creatures, but what about other people? What if they are evil and need to be destroyed? Should I do that?”
“It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing and I cannot give you an absolute answer. Every case is different. All in all, though, your job is to protect others, Kaven,” Lexend crossed his arms. “And…one other thing.” He turned from the paladin to the adventure log writer. “Insert scene wipe here. This will be revealed later.”
You got it, Lexend.
Foradjinn and Igneel passed through the market district to a jeweler the bard spotted before. Inside, a skinny, ratty haired man looked up from a bare table. “Can I help you?”
“Do you buy?’
The bard set one of the fire opals on the table. Producing a lens, the man studied it. His eyes flickered toward the bard and then back to the gem several times. “Two hundred gold,” he said at last.
A full eight hundred less than its true worth, the bard recollected. Snatching the stone back, Foradjinn glared. “I suggest you stop attempting to cheat your customers if you expect to remain in business.” He led Igneel out of the shop, ignoring the muttered curses of the jeweler.
Asking around, they soon found another shop. This one was owned by an older woman named Elet. She oohed over the beautiful gems and asked their origins. Foradjinn gave her an abbreviated history, downplaying their looting from Ferrin’s house. “They are beautiful,” she said at last. “I could probably sell them for nine hundred, so how about eight hundred apiece for three?”
“That is a fair price,” Foradjinn agreed. “And I will tell everyone who asks about your shop in return.” He turned to Igneel. “Did you want to sell yours?”
Igneel turned the gem over in his hand. “Nah, I think I’ll keep it.”
“You could put it on your fox mask,” the bard suggested, accepting a large bag of coins from Elet.
A smirk twitched the monk’s lips.
As Tinuviel finished her report to Gwendolyn, the leader of the Hawks leaned back in her chair. “Well done. We’ll continue to keep people out of the Drop until the wizards can clear it.” Shuffling some paper on her desk, she studied a few of them. “Now, there are a few options for the group should they feel inclined.” She pointed on the map at Telfore. “We need to learn where the black dragon’s lair is – that will go towards ending the threat to that city.”
“Why hasn’t the dragon overrun the city?”
Gwendolyn shrugged at the half-elf’s question. “That’s one of the many things we don’t know and perhaps they can find out. Let me stress this,” she leveled a finger at Tinuviel. “We need you alive. There will be no martyrs – hurting or killing that dragon is a secondary objective. Finding the lair is paramount, not confronting it.”
“Option two: Cloudcroft has fallen. We need a team to infiltrate the city and see if there is a resistance, and whether or not we can coordinate with them to strike back.
“The other two options are not as needful, though they would benefit from a little more help. Option three: assist the forces we’re sending to Artesia. Option four: the orc tribes that war with the elves of Asher Dan are stronger than ever before. To aid the elves would be a good political move, but as I have said this is not as urgent.”
Tinuviel cast her thoughts back over the group’s previous ponderings. “And if they choose none of these? Do you still wish me to go with them?”
“For now.” Gwendolyn rested her elbows on the desk and narrowed her eyes at the half-elf. “But remember what I said – stay alive.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Tinuviel nodded again. “Should I report back what they have decided. Or some of them can send you a message via magic-”
“Don’t. Have them send to Beron if it’s all right with him.”
As instructed, Tinuviel checked in with her inquisitor for his permission and assured him the group would check in before leaving. She then returned to the Gleaming Star where some of them noticed Kaven’s new aura and all of them admired his new equipment.
Following an extended discussion, the group decided to go to Telfore as it was closest.