Barmin Tower – House Sivis Message Station
6 Barrakas, 998 YK
Far, 8:13 PM
Thunder rumbled in the distance as the six Cyrans crossed the rain-slick skybridge that led to Barmin Tower. The rain fell at a steady pace, causing waterfalls to spill over the sides of the slanted rooftops and balcony railings. Ahead, the door to the House Sivis message station hung open at a strange angle, one of its hinges separated from the doorframe. Lightning flashed, and someone – or something – groaned from somewhere inside the otherwise quiet shop.
Be ready, Ralharath advised, the kalashtar’s voice resonating in his fellows’ minds. In one of her human guises, the changeling Bex muttered to herself and readied her weapon, a dagger fashioned from a carver’s claw.
The tiefling Arturo furrowed a ridged brow. “T’ain’t good,” he said. He and one of the warforged, a wizard called Relic, started toward the building. The artificer peered into the broken door, and his breath caught in his throat at the sight.
The tables and stools within the message station were in disarray; some were overturned or smashed, while others had been forcefully scattered from their usual places. Behind the counter, lying atop a spilled shelf of scrolls and parchment sheets, was the gnome clerk. She moaned, unconscious but apparently still alive.
“Oy! Kiddo!” cried Arturo, rushing inside to check the woman’s vitals. Her face was heavily bruised and the skin split as though she’d been bludgeoned with something heavy. The others followed him in, and the warforged called Rocky stood by the door with an eye open for threats.
Rickard d’Tharashk sent his gaze across the small chamber. “What a mess,” he observed to no one in particular. While Arturo worked to revive the unconscious gnome, Bex and Ralharath searched the room with a critical eye, seeking any clues as to what might have happened.
The clerk regained consciousness slowly. When she finally did, she sat up, blinked to clear her eyes, and immediately attempted to stand. “The messages!” she cried. “I have to check on the messages!”
“Messages?” Bex inquired, glancing up from some boot prints in the ink spilled on the floor near the toppled table.
“Dedicated to her job. That’s what I love about Sivis messengers,” drawled Rickard.
The gnome stumbled over to the scrolls littering the floor, picking them up and scanning them frantically. “Ma’am,” Ralharath said gently. “You must rest lest you strain yourself and lose consciousness again.” He leaned over and began to help her gather the messages. She looked nervously at the kalashtar, but did not object to his help.
“D’ya have a name?” Arturo asked, stowing his smelling salts and salves.
“What?” she asked, looking up at him, startled.
“He’ll probably just call you ‘girly’ anyway,” Bex confided.
“Only use that on those I know,” the tiefling protested with a smirk. “Yer name?” he prompted the gnome again.
“I’m called Pelkin,” she answered shyly, clearly alarmed by his appearance.
Seeing her discomfort, Bex said, “Don’t worry about Arturo, here. He ain’t as bad as he looks.” The gnome spared a shy smile for the changeling.
Arturo smiled as he began to right some of the other furniture. “Aye, looks be deceiving.”
In a gentler tone Bex asked, “What happened to you, Pelkin?”
“Aye. How’d ya end up in this trouble?” Arturo said.
With Relic’s assistance, Ralharath righted the table and set the missives he’d gathered on top. Pelkin nodded her thanks to them and gathered the remaining papers, looking around at the group, still uncertain. “I… I was attacked,” she said finally, her eyes dropping to the floor forlornly. “I guess that is obvious.”
“Please,” the kalashtar said softly. “We are here to help. Tell us how this event came to pass.” At his words, Pelkin appeared to relax some, and asked the company for their names, which they readily supplied.
“The forgemaster called me Relic, ma’am. But you may call me Rel.”
“Rocky,” said the large stoic warforged guarding the door.
“I am known as Ralharath.”
“Arturo, but ye can call me Art, kiddo.” She frowned a bit at his term for her, but did not comment.
“I’m Rebexa, but you can call me Bex.”
“And I am Rickard d’Tharashk,” the dragonmarked heir concluded.
Pelkin’s eyes widened at the honorific. “Then perhaps you can find whoever did this, Lord Rickard,” she suggested.
Rickard nodded. “Aye, this is definitely something I can look into. What can you tell us of what happened?”
She explained that a band of at least four hobgoblins had charged in and attacked her. After they subdued her, a human-sized individual wrapped in a dark cloak entered the shop. “The stranger had a deep, rumbling voice that was strong and threatening, and the hobgoblins followed his orders without question.”
He asked if there were any messages for a Rebexa…” she glanced at Bex, “…Chandler…”
“Um… I’m Rebexa Chandler,” said the changeling.
“I wondered!” said Pelkin. “It seemed an amazing coincidence, because I had just transcribed a message for you from the speaking stone. I must have glanced at the scroll I was holding, and the next instant, the man in the cloak had snatched it with one hand and hit me with the other. That’s the last thing I remember.”
Ralharath steepled his fingers. “Intriguing.”
“Bex, you have friends in town it seems,” intoned Relic.
Rickard frowned at the changeling. “What troubles are we in now?”
“I dunno, Rick,” she said honestly.
“Why so serious, Rickard?” Relic queried. “We came here looking for adventure… We have found it.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” muttered Arturo.
“Tell us more of the cloaked man,” suggested Rickard. “Was there anything of note about him?”
“I’m afraid not, sir,” said Pelkin, reaching up to touch her bruised face. “Except… he must have been wearing gauntlets. It wasn’t flesh that struck my face.”
Or another warforged, Ralharath suggested to the group across his mindlink. The Cyrans exchanged meaningful glances with one another.
Pelkin scanned the remaining scrolls, but after she looked them all over she turned sadly back to Bex. “I’m so sorry…” she said glumly.
“Do you remember what it said?” the changeling wanted to know.
“I cannot reveal what the message said because House Sivis clerks are trained to transcribe and forget, for our own safety as well as for the privacy of our clients. I just…don’t remember,” she fretted.
“Oh! I, uh…didn’t know that,” Bex said.
Pelkin looked around at each of the adventurers in turn, eyes lingering longest on Ralharath. “You seem like decent folks. I do remember who the message was from, if you think that would help.”
“It might,” Rocky rumbled from the doorway.
Bex’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “It just might. Tell us, please.”
“It was from Lady Elaydren d’Cannith.”
“Well, we done her a job once. Maybe it’s time to do another,” Arturo said.
“And if there’s hobgoblins roughing up her messengers, she might be in trouble, too,” Bex agreed.
“At the very least, we should tell her of this,” suggested Relic. “Either that, Bex, or they didn’t want us to take the job offered in the message.”
The changeling nodded at the wizard. “If that’s the case, we ought to find out why.”
“Agreed. We should leave immediately. If they are headed for the Lady, then they have a head start on us.”
“House Sivis will likely award you for reviving me and for finding the perpetrators, if you can,” said Pelkin.
“That’d be nice,” Bex said. “I just want my message.”
“I am truly sorry to have lost it,” the clerk lamented.
“Don’t be sorry. I wouldn’t want to face those hobgoblins either. We’ll find some City Watch and send them here to keep an eye on your place, okay?” At that suggestion, Rocky exited the message station, his heavy footsteps fading into the distance as he crossed the bridge.
“Please, and thank you,” said Pelkin.
Bex winked. “No problem. Might lock the door ‘til they get here, though.”
Ralharath eyed the closed door in the back of the small message station briefly before gliding along the floor toward it. “Please, sir!” Pelkin cried out. “That is a private office. House members only.”
What lies beyond this portal? the kalashtar’s voice said in the clerk’s mind.
Her eyes widened in alarm, and she stammered, “I…I appreciate your help, but I think it best if you left now. When the City Watch arrives, I’ll have to report this attack.”
We encountered no creature on our path here, Ralharath persisted. It is possible they have not left as we think.
“Please… Please stop doing that,” she all but whispered.
Looking between the silent wizard staring at the door and the frightened gnome, Bex frowned. “Ral…” she warned.
“Let’s go,” Relic said. “There is nothing left here, and we are distressing the poor woman.” The warforged followed his own suggestion and walked out the door.
Ralharath turned to the gnome and continued to speak to her mind. I highly recommend you investigate this portal or risk being attacked again when we leave.
She cringed away from the wizard and whimpered. “But…it’s still locked…” She reached into her pocket and produced a small key, her hand shaking. “And I still have the key.”
“Oy, Ral. She ain’t havin’ the mind-speak…” Arturo scolded.
Ignoring the tiefling, Ralharath projected, Locks are all too easy to open. It is your duty to ensure those who attacked you are not going through the belongings of the House you serve. She shook her head, eyes still wide and brimming with unshed tears.
“Come on, fellows,” Bex said, looking pointedly at the kalashtar. “Let’s be on our way.”
“You endanger all the missives not yet taken by the brigands by not fulfilling your duty,” Ralharath finally said aloud. “If you will not listen to reason, there is no more we can do for you. Have a better night than has befallen you already.”
“I know my duty,” she said softly.
“Of course you do,” Bex said, offering the gnome a smile before departing.
“I will do what I can to get to the bottom of this,” Rickard assured her. He tipped his hat and walked out into the rain. Arturo followed the changeling, waving as he exited.
Ralharath attempted one final appeal to the shaken gnome. “We mean you and your missives no harm. That much should have been obvious, but I understand your mind is not used to being touched by others. I beseech you check your master’s office before we are out of hand to help.”
Pelkin appeared somewhat appeased. “You should go,” she said with finality. “I’ll be fine.”
The kalashtar shook his head. “I pray you will not regret this decision.” He turned on his heel and joined the others on the skybridge.
“I believe Rocky has already left to find a watchman,” Relic was explaining to the others as Ralharath approached. “I am not sure whether or not he wished us to wait for him.”
Moments later, the warden’s heavy footsteps could be heard drawing nearer, as well as those of a pair of the Sharn City Watch. “You shall find her in that building there,” Rocky pointed down the path. “Please see that she is safe. Her nerves are shaken, I believe. Thank you.” The two watchmen nodded then approached the message station. One entered, while the other stood outside the doors, eyeing the hinges with a frown.
She is safe, Rocky asserted to the group. We should go now.
“To the tavern where we met the Lady?” Relic asked aloud.
“Sounds good to me,” Bex said.
“I have no better plan,” Rocky agreed.
“And perhaps a drink?” Arturo suggested.
Bex smirked at him. “Funny how, for you, that ‘Perhaps’ is always an ‘Always’.”
“Funny how ‘for me’ usually ends in for you, as well,” the tiefling retorted with a grin. “Right Montaque?” The magpie perched on his shoulder did not comment, and Arturo stroked the bird’s feathered head.
“Ah, yes… Alcohol. I wonder what that feels like,” Relic commented.
The rain seemed to slack off as the Cyrans walked away from the message station. Around a tower bend, at least a dozen people milled about on a partially covered terrace. A gang of children splashed in the puddles near the curving wall, laughing merrily. A merchant pushed an empty cart, presumably returning from the market exchange. A guard of the Sharn Watch looked the crowd over from his place beneath a shop awning.
Suddenly, a blur of metallic feathers rocketed toward them out of the cloud-filled sky. The clockwork owl circled once before alighting upon Arturo’s shoulder, opposite Montaque. Its chest opened, revealing a scroll case sealed with wax with no imprint.
“What the—” Bex exclaimed, but the tiefling laughed with delight, reaching up to remove the scroll.
Having delivered its cargo, the mechanical messenger took wing once more and streaked away. “Fan-TASTIC!” Arturo commented appreciatively.
“Must be expensive,” Bex said, watching the owl fly away.
The artificer smirked at her. “Very.” Shielding the parchment from the rain, he read the scroll’s contents to the others through the mindlink:
The normal means of communication seems to have been compromised, so I have sent this special messenger to personally find you and deliver this letter. You served me once before, and now I need your help again. Time is short. I feel that our enemies have discovered me and are closing in. Meet me at the Broken Anvil tavern, where we first discussed heirlooms and job opportunities. Act quickly, for I believe that we are all in terrible danger.
“That doesn’t sound like we have much time,” Bex said.
“Sounds exciting! Let’s make haste,” Relic suggested, eyes glittering.
Rickard grinned. “Working for House Cannith is always exciting.”
I’m going there now, Rocky announced over the mindlink, and put words into action, making for the tavern at a slightly elevated pace. The others exchanged a glance, then followed along behind him.
As they walked, Arturo tore up the note and shoved it into his mouth. “That’s… one way of doing that,” Bex observed.
“Well, gets the job done,” the tiefling smiled.
Bex, I might recommend not being…Bex…for the time being, Relic suggested.
Sure, but I’m not gonna change out here in fronta EVERYbody, she replied.
Of course. I just get a kick out of meeting all of the different personalities you have come up with.
Mason’s Tower – Broken Anvil Tavern
They entered the tavern, carved into a bend in the tower wall. Inside, everbright lanterns at either end of the room provided flickering illumination. A round table was set to either side of the entrance and three longer tables were scattered throughout the room. The Broken Anvil had only one customer, a woman in a worn brown cloak seated at the far end of the room. As the Cyrans entered, she raised her hand as if to cast a spell, then stopped and drew back her hood. Despite her disheveled hair and the dir that covered her face, they recognized her – Elaydren d’Cannith.
Gone were her expensive jewelry and fine glamerweave clothing, replaced by a mud-spattered traveler’s outfit. When the matronly halfling innkeeper emerged from the kitchen, Lady Elaydren dismissed her with an imperious wave of her hand and called the party over to her table in the northeast corner. “Quickly, quickly!” she said in a strained voice. They approached, and Ralharath nodded his head politely to their patron.
“You sent for me, milady?” Rebexa asked.
“Yes, yes. For all of you. Thank Olladra that you’re here. There is no time to waste.” She lifted a leather backpack off the floor and placed it on the table. The leather was worn, but its brass fittings were still bright. It appeared light, almost empty.
“There is no time to explain,” she continued, her fear-filled eyes darting from the adventurers to the door and back again. “Instructions, gold, and supplies are in this pack. Take it and go. The letter in the left-hand pocket explains everything, but you must go now! Trust me. If you can accomplish this task, the reward will be vast.”
“I’ll watch the door,” Rocky said, before taking up a position near the exit.
“Sure thing,” Bex assured her as Arturo picked up the pack. “You got some place to hide?”
The tiefling slung the bag over his shoulder. “Aye, I take it the sooner we get gone the sooner ye can get to safety, milady.”
“I’ll see to myself, yes,” Elaydren nodded, standing.
“Things must be bad,” Rickard said. “We should get moving now. Take care of yourself, Lady. I’d hate for something to happen to you.”
“All right,” Bex said. “We’ll send word when we get to…where we’re goin’. Good luck.”
As they turned to leave, the door to the street burst open, showering Rocky with splintered wood. Four beefy figures leapt through the doorway, sliding past the startled warden and clearing the space in front of the entrance. A fifth figure stepped into the doorway, a broad humanoid in a dark, hooded cloak carrying a light crossbow. “We’ll be taking the schema,” he rumbled in a deep masculine voice, raising his weapon and launching a bolt at Elaydren, who dropped behind the table to narrowly avoid the missile. The tavern commons exploded into action.
Bex’s face morphed to match her patron’s, and Bex smiled at Elaydren’s unfeigned shock. “I’ll give them something else to shoot at,” she said before whirling around and advancing on the hooded figure. She launched her carver’s claw at him and shouted defiantly, “Were you looking for me?”
The figure rocked back a step and his cowl fell, revealing a warforged face. As Bex’s weapon reappeared in her hand, the warforged tossed the crossbow to the floor and retrieved a long, wicked-looking bladed staff from the magnetic holder on his back. He advanced on “Elaydren” and declared, “Glaive will grant you the oblivion you seek!” She ducked his first slash, but the second came so swiftly from another angle that she could not evade it. She cried out in surprise as the blade impacted her leather armor, not penetrating but leaving, she suspected, a heavy bruise.
“Time to fly, Jester!” Relic cried. The dragonling appeared above the warforged wizard already in full flight. It stopped above the hobgoblins, hovering just below the ceiling, and belched a huge burst of fire down upon them. The flames licked hungrily, burning goblinoid flesh and setting the curtain behind them aflame.
“Uh oh,” Bex said.
Growling, two of the hobgoblins converged on Rocky while the other two charged forward to join their commander in assaulting “Elaydren” with their falchions raised high. Rocky warded off his opponents’ attacks, but Bex could only avoid one of the heavy slashes and her blood splashed to the floor. A wash of mist erupted from the warden, crackling and bursting with energy. Despite the dramatic evocation, the first slash of his longsword clanged off a hobgoblin shield.
Ralharath advanced toward the enemies threatening Bex. A globe of orange flame coalesced in the kalashtar wizard’s hand, which he hurled into the midst of the enemies. The explosion caught all but one of the foes – as well as Rocky and Jester – but after the initial blast, he was pleased to see that the flames had only burned the aggressors. The warden’s enchanted shield had protected him, and the nimble dragonling had simply evaded the blossoming fireball. “Feel the hatred of fire sear your hides and despair!” he snarled, noting that another curtain and one of the tables had caught fire.
Arturo swung his crossbow up and took aim at the warforged commander. “Oy! I’ll Glaive you!” he declared, releasing a flaming bolt which sunk deep into the wooden part of his foe’s arm and continued to burn. Nodding in satisfaction, he turned toward Bex and shouted, “Hey girly, don’t go all soft on me yet!” His words were empowered with the majestic power of bardsong, and the changeling felt her pain decrease, even as the magic pulled her a step back from the vicious blades.
“Don’t you fret about me, Arturo,” she called back, her tone conveying her gratitude.
He nodded once, then tossed a small construct into the fight with a laugh. “A’ight, kid. Go get ‘em!”
“If there is a back door, I suggest you use it,” Rickard said to Lady Elaydren, before turning to face the fray. With an uttered curse, the shadows around him stretched forth to batter the nearest hobgoblin. The creature cried out in pain and coughed up blood.
The halfling innkeeper came rushing out of the kitchen shouting, “You can’t fight here! Get out! Get out! You’re burning down my damned inn!”
She took a step toward a hobgoblin, giving it a momentary glimpse of her true face. Predictable confusion crossed the creature’s face, and she used the distraction to stab it deeply – twice. Arterial spray preceded the hobgoblin’s death as it fell to the floor. A weird smile crossed “Elaydren’s” face.
Glaive rumbled in his chest, then gave rapid orders in the Goblin tongue before advancing on Ralharath, bladed staff spinning. The wizard’s surprise was complete as the weapon slashed thrice too swiftly to follow. Moments later, he lay on the floor in a pool of his own blood.
Wincing as his fellow wizard fell but counting on Arturo to take care of it, Relic remained focused on the fight. “I might as well use this fire to our advantage.” The warforged approached Glaive and the cursed hobgoblin, sending his beguiling tendrils out. He saw the magic take hold of their minds with a pinch before they walked into the burning curtains.
The burning goblinoid recovered from the enchantment swiftly, moved to flank Rocky, and scored a hit against the warforged. The hobgoblin nearest the exit circled the warden and charged “Elaydren.” She tried to parry the overhead chop, but her opponent’s strength plowed through the attempt and drew a new line of blood. It grinned wickedly before the magic of the warden’s grasp yanked him away from his quarry. Struggling to take control of the melee, Rocky drew all three hobgoblins near and lashed out with his longsword. One was unable to block the flashing blade and was gutted for his failure. The other two were buffeted by thunder. Unsatisfied, he lashed out with his blade again to strike a second opponent.
Arturo pulled an orb and splashed it over Ralharath, the liquid evaporating as its healing magic was spent. “Get up, man!” he cried as the kalashtar’s eyes fluttered open. The tiefling then turned to the construct he’d summoned. “And you! Get stompin’ on that mouthy warforged!” The little construct whistled and steamed as nuts and bolts flew from it to impact Glaive, who was still entangled in the burning curtain.
Rickard hurled a curse at the nearest living hobgoblin and shadows rose up to crush the creature – to death. The shadows around the warlock grew a little darker, and the remaining hobgoblin licked its lips nervously, glancing at Glaive as the warforged finally extricated himself from the flaming fabric.
Before he could turn back to face the commons, Bex glided across the floor and ambushed him with a hurled carver’s claw. Her blade punched another sizable hole in the warforged, and she activated the dagger’s magic – necrotic energy began to eat away at the metal and wood surrounding the wound. “Build these things to last, don’t they?” she quipped.
“Thank the Host for that,” Relic replied mildly. She shot him an odd look, then turned back to look at Glaive with her borrowed face.
The warforged sizzled with dark energy, scanning the remains of the combat. He flexed, popping some of the dents out of his chassis, then advanced on “Elaydren,” glaive leading. His first strike hurt – badly. She had just enough presence of mind to throw herself backwards and out from beneath his follow up overhead slash. “You will die, weak flesh,” he promised.
“I have had about enough of you hurting my allies, Glaive,” Relic said, beginning to chant and make hypnotic gestures. The wizard’s enchantment took control of the warforged, and Glaive jerkily moved beside Rocky and the remaining hobgoblin. Relic repeated the incantation and forced his enemy to strike the goblinoid.
The heavily wounded creature looked up at Glaive terror-stricken. It took a cautious step away from its commander, slashing wildly at rocky with its falchion and scoring a hit against the warden. Rocky turned his attention to Glaive, striking the enemy warforged and killing the hobgoblin with the backlash of his evocation. This seemed to enrage Glaive, who shouted, “You have killed my slaves defending these weak-fleshed lesser beings. Flesh-loving warforged have no place in this world, race-traitor!”
Shaking off the pain of his injuries, Ralharath regained his feet. With a steely glare at Glaive, he began casting. An orb of magical force shattered against the warforged, causing him to stagger back a step, staring incredulously at the wizard he’d thought dead. “From hell’s heart I stab at thee!” the kalashtar cried.
Arturo nodded, and marched forward a few steps with his reloaded crossbow. “Ya overgrown _Steam-Valve-145!_” he screamed at Glaive, and the force of his magically laced voice crushed in a few of the foe’s chest plates. Rickard leveled his rod at the warforged and released two more blasts of utter darkness, and frowned when the stubborn construct still stood.
But only for a moment longer as Bex’s dagger impaled him a final time. As the carver’s claw vanished from the wound, Glaive fell heavily to his knees. “The Lord of Blades will do for your precious Five Nations. That… is… a… cert-“ He fell over, non-functional.
“‘Bout time,” Bex muttered, as the knife reappeared in her hand. She turned to Lady Elaydren and said, “Milady, we should be going.”
Elaydren arose from behind the table where she’d taken cover. “Past time, yes. My thanks again. You are my favorite contractors by far.”
Arturo punched his fist in the air and slapped Bex on the back. “Oy! Yea! Teach ‘em, Girly! Ha-HA!”
Ralharath staggered to the stairs and slumped to the ground. “I dislike battling warforged,” he said.
Relic approached the kalashtar. “Are you okay? You took quite a bit of punishment.”
“I think Bex is worse for the wear,” he replied. As if on cue, the changeling fell to her knees, and Arturo moved to tend to her. “I need but a moment to regain my breath,” Ralharath concluded.
“If this is to be the end of our foe, he should be put down properly,” said Rocky, moving to stand beside Glaive. The lightless eyes still seemed to glare up at the warden with hate even after he put a blade through the central conduit to prevent the fallen warforged from rising again.
The halfling innkeeper continued screaming bloody murder, and the House Ghallanda guards belatedly emerged from back rooms. Arturo helped extinguish the fires and once it was confirmed that damages would be compensated, the innkeeper settled for banning the Cyrans from the Broken Anvil for life, rather than involving the City Watch.
Lady Elaydren thanked the adventurers again, though she still eyed Bex – who still wore her face – askance. “More of these assassins may show up at any moment. All the information you need is in the left pocket of the backpack. Take it and go! Get out of the city as quickly as you can!” So saying, she made her exit.
“So it is the Lord of Blades that seeks to stop us,” mused Relic. “It will be thrilling to spoil his plans.”
Rocky was searching the bodies of the fallen. “Would it be too much for me to take some spare parts?” Arturo asked, gesturing at Glaive.
Rocky shrugged. “I have no stake in these parts.”
Bex had shifted faces while no one was looking, and “Beitris” asked, “Do we really have time for this?”
“We do not,” the warden said.
Ignoring them both, the artificer began harvesting parts from Glaive. “Might as well get while the gettin’s good,” he said cheerfully.
“Agreed,” said Relic. “I want to see what’s in that bag.”
I suppose we’ll have to camp outside the gates, projected Ralharath, having regained his composure.
“Yeah, before whoever this ‘Lord of Blades’ is shows up,” said Rickard.
Yep. Let’s get in…gear, punned Arturo. Bex groaned, but whether it was from the pain or the joke was impossible to say.