–Dark of the Moon, ch. 1–
In which Nadarr enlists the help of Norros, Danath, and Elendithas in fighting the monster that slew a Halfling archaeologist.
Nadarr Kasdann entered the Wheel from the street leading to the Governor’s Mansion venting poison with each breath. Enraged that the guard at the entrance to the mansion hadn’t taken his information seriously, the green Dragonborn couldn’t help but spew his poisonous dragon’s breath in front of him as he marched to the Wheel. Luckily, no one stood in his way and the noxious gas fell to the ground, some grass and a few flowers the only victims. With his spleen vented, Nadarr still couldn’t contain himself, and his narration of what happened at the dig site spilled out in a loud rant.
“Finley Farhome? Did you say Finley Farhome?” came a youthful voice from the park side of the Wheel. It was a high-pitched, sing-song kind of voice, and it belonged to a street performer, who had only just then stopped plucking her lyre to address the Dragonborn.
“Yes, I did,” said Nadarr, his anger forgotten as he looked at the bright, innocent smile on the pretty face of the busker.
“The bard-queen of the forgotten tales? She’s my hero, my inspiration. I know all her songs, or at least songs attributed to her. No one knows if she ever really existed, you know. They say she was bored being a queen, so she disguised herself as a bard and went from town to town, a humble performer, begging for scraps in exchange for an air or jig. My tutor back in Thousand Spires says Finley is just a myth, a handy catch-all for ancient songs of unknown origin. But I long to believe that Finley…”
“Hey, what are you doing?” A small boy shouted from the assembled crowd and pointed at a leather clad individual, who was even now straightening up after helping himself to the coppers in the busker’s lyre case.
“They…ah…they fell out,” said the erstwhile thief. “I was putting them back, don’t you know. I would never steal from a fellow performer.”
The Dragonborn and the busker looked the roguish figure up and down. He had daggers in his belt and a shortbow slung across his back, but in his hand he held a deck of cards. He cut them one-handed absent-mindedly as he dropped the coppers back in the lyre case. “Won’t happen again, miss…?”
“Lady Elendithas Day, bard extraordinaire…or else I hope to be one day. I only just arrived here in Cold Harbor. But everyone’s been terribly nice to me. I don’t know if they hear a lot of singing this far from refined civilization.”
The rogue coughed and gave the Dragonborn’s chainmail armor a playful slug. “Do you hear that, friend? We aren’t refined civilization.”
“Speak for yourself, ‘friend,’ I am from Krivann, the capital of Dragonclime. The citizens of Sularil are too young a people to know the meaning of civilization. Dragonborn have been hatching on our islands since long before the first elf awakened in Daen.”
“Far be it from me to dispute that,” said the rogue. “No one who has ever known me would call me civilized. I’m just Norros. Norros Arborshade, late of Torniel-by-the-Sea and come to Cold Harbor seeking fame and fortune.”
“With a deck of cards,” said Elendithas, her eyebrows raised in incredulity.
Norros fanned the deck. “Pick one.”
Nadarr stepped between the two street performers. “Look, I don’t have time for card games. I need help at the dig site. I can’t interest the local guard and I have no friends here. You will have to do.”
“Some invitation,” said Norros. “What’s in it for me?”
“Don’t know what’s left in the crypt. Could be some gold or artifacts. All I know that’s there is my boss, Runcel, dead on the floor…and the thing that killed him.”
“Well, I for one, want to go if Finley Farhome has anything to do with it,” said Elendithas as she bent down to put her lyre away.
“If she’s going, I’m going,” said Norros, eyeing the coppers rattling around the bottom of Elend’s case.
“Then let’s set out right now.” Nadarr turned up the street and stalked north out of Cold Harbor into the forest.
They hadn’t gone far when they reached a small campsite. A tent stood between two trees, and a fire smoldered below a cooking pot set upon some branches. “Hold on,” said Norros, looking around.
As he said it, a flash of green and brown tumbled by them from the tree limbs above. A leaf-covered person lay at their feet, the wind and pride knocked out of him.
“Climb trees often?” asked Nadarr.
The owner of the campsite sat up and took several short breaths. “I sleep in them from time to time,” he said. “Terribly comfortable, branches.”
“Who are you, Sir Hunter?” asked Elendithas with all the nobility she could muster.
“Danath Errandir is the name.” His hood fell back as he stood up, revealed long elven ears. But his skin was much too pale and his features were not thin or chiseled enough to be an elf.
“It’s great to meet another Half-Elf in these parts,” said Norros to the ranger, and he put out his hand.
“Too true,” said Danath, shaking it. “Won’t you and your companions join me for lunch. Let’s see, I bet my trap has a fat coney in it.”
Danath’s prediction held true. In a matter of minutes the hare was skinned, chopped, and put in the stew with potatoes and wild herbs. As they ate, Danath told them about the exploits he accomplished with his uncle, slaying the giants of northern Daen and ridding the townspeople of a perennial menace.
“You killed giants?” Norros and Elendithas spoke at once; his voice dripped with disbelief, hers sang with the hope of a good story.
“There’s not much to tell,” said Danath. “We were hired to kill the giants. We did. And I took this as a trophy.”
He punctuated the last with a thud on the table as he produced a large glass container with an item suspended in liquid. “Is that an…an eye?” said Elendithas. “How perfectly horrible.”
“I took it from a giant I slew. I’m not one for too many possessions, but trophies are another matter.”
Nadarr put his bowl down. “Looks like you can handle that longbow. I could use an Elf that can take care of himself.”
“Half-elf,” said Danath, his voice a mixture of bravado and affliction.
“Have it your way, then,” said Nadarr. “Just don’t climb any more trees.”
The foursome reached the archeological site just after noon. “An entryway opens into an antechamber and the main crypt is beyond,” said Nadarr. “The scientists fled when they heard the noise, leaving only me and poor Runcel. He was dead before I knew what hit him. I still don’t rightly know what it was, but my senses tingled as a I fled. Surely, we’ll be dealing with something undead in there.”
“What are we waiting for?” said Norros. “Dragonborn — you go first.”
“You will never see me in any other position in line, depend on it,” said Nadarr as he stepped into the antechamber.
As soon as all four were within, they noticed a loud sound of chittering. At that, Norros dropped out of sight, readying his shortbow. Danath nocked an arrow and swung his bow wildly around the room, trying to ascertain the maker of the horrid sound. Four giant rats bounded out of the shadows. Before anyone knew what was happening, an arrow flew from Norros’s shortbow and struck a rat straight through the heart. Two others attacked Nadarr, but his armor managed to deflect the biting teeth of the first, if not the second. The final rat took a huge bite out of Lady Elend before a flurry of arrows took it down. Nadarr’s battleaxe cleaved the others in two, and the ambush was over barely after it had started.
“And now for it,” said Nadarr as he crept into the burial room. Runcel’s body sat in a pool of its own congealed blood, and Nadarr cursed himself for leaving his employer, even if it meant getting help to avenge him. The Halfling look so much smaller in death than he had in life.
The sound of a door creaking open on rusty hinges brought Nadarr back to the present. The clammy feeling of undeath once again stirred his paladin’s senses. There it was. A gibbering, slobbering ghoul stepped into the torchlight, and the four adventurers could see what could only be Runcel’s blood dripping from its claws and teeth. Nadarr charged.
A swipe of the battleaxe took a chunk of the ghoul’s flesh. Norros’s first arrow flew past the ghoul’s head and clattered harmlessly against the wall. Elendithas sang a quick song of inspiration for Nadarr and then tried mocking the ghoul, but her taunts fell on deaf ears. Danath’s arrow struck home in the ghoul’s shoulder. The ghoul took a mighty swipe at Nadarr, whose armor couldn’t turn the blow. Nadarr returned the favor and cut off the arm that swiped at him. Norros’s next arrow flew straight into the ghoul’s eye socket, and the revenge was complete.
Norros couldn’t help himself but approached the ghoul to search its body. The rotting flesh oozed over his hands, but the three gold pieces he found were worth it. He pocketed two, then turned to the others. “I found a gold piece. Who wants it?”
The others looked at the gold covered with rank ghoul flesh and took a pass. “Suit yourself,” said Norros, tucking the gold piece with its fellows. He returned to the group who were kneeling by Runcel’s body. By his side was a non-descript leather bag. Taking it in turn, they reached in the bag, but found nothing. The strange thing was, their arms extended much deeper into the bag than its size could explain. Nadarr clambered inside and was completely engulfed.
After a minute, the Dragonborn had not reappeared. Danath reached in, thinking of Nadarr, caught hold of his chain mail, and fished him out. “There’s nothing in there, but it’s really big inside.”
“If you guys don’t want this empty bag, I’ll take it,” offered Norros.
“Not so fast,” said Danath, turning the bag upside down and shaking it. Two glass potions of healing, some charcoal and parchment, clothes, and a sealed letter fell out. Norros snatched up the letter and began ripping it open.
“No, wait,” said Elendithas. “That might be private.”
“It is,” said Norros, reading in the dim light. “Just a letter home to his wife saying he might have found something in the crypt. It’s addressed to Kinhome.”
“I wonder what he found,” said Elend. She rose and began searching the room, running her fingers over the wall and examining the now closed secret door the ghoul had entered through. One brick had some relief carved into it. She pressed it, and the door creaked open. “There’s nothing here,” she said. “The passage is all caved in. But there was something here.” She returned her attention to the relief carving in the brick. “Nadarr, bring me some of that charcoal and parchment.”
Elendithas made a rubbing: two swooping elvish letter Fs and three vertical lines between them. “It must be Finley Farhome’s sign,” she said. “Maybe she did exist, after all. Oh, I can’t wait to tell my best friend back in Thousand Spires.”
“In the meantime,” said Danath, “can we get out of this crypt?”
They returned to Cold Harbor with Runcel’s body and dropped it off at the morgue at the University. The Toothless Orc tavern was across the street. “Who wants a drink,” asked Norros. The party entered the pub and sat down at the bar.
“What are ye having?” asked a grizzled old dwarf in a thick brogue.
“A mug of your cheapest ale, for me and my friends,” said Norros.
“Ah, four Cold Harbor piss-waters coming right up.”
“Make mine a white wine,” said Elendithas.
Written by Adam Thomas, Dungeonmaster
Jarrod Antkowiak as Norros Arborshade
Allissa Leonard as Nadarr Kasdann
Jack Leonard as Danath Errandir
Leah Thomas as Elendithas Day