–Dark of the Moon, ch. 3–
In which a Halfling mob boss sends the companions on a pair of tasks in exchange for information.
The next afternoon saw the adventurers collecting a pouch of gold from Femi Ren at the governor’s mansion. They received ten gold per wolf they killed. It was more money than Norros had ever seen in one place, so he didn’t even try to wrangle more out of the Halfling. But he did have something else on his mind. “Before we go, have you ever seen this symbol?”
The rogue held up a rough drawing of a circle with an “L” shape starting at the circle’s center and extending downwards.
“No, no, I don’t think I ever have,” said Femi in his normally flustered way. “Where did you come across that?”
“It was branded on the dire wolves’ shoulders. Both of them had it in the same place.”
Elendithas chimed in: “Do you know someone we might be able to talk to about it? It’s terribly important, we think.” As she asked the question, Elend noticed a slight tick at the corner of Femi’s mouth.
“You might try Malric Orcsbane at the Toothless Orc. He knows all sorts of trivia,” said Femi.
“Are you sure,” plied Elend, “that there’s no one else who might know?” She gestured to Nadarr and said in a stage whisper. “Help me out here.”
Nadarr strode forward. “Tell us what you know or I will kill everyone you hold dear and you last of all.”
“Whoa, whoa, Greenscales,” said Danath, stepping between Nadarr and Femi. “I don’t think that’s what Elend meant.”
Femi held his ground. “I don’t take kindly to threats, master Dragonborn.”
“Wait a tick,” said Norros, snapping his fingers. “Ren, Ren. I know I’ve heard that name before now. In the Narrows, where I was staying until I met you all. There was someone named Ren. Everyone is afraid of him.”
“Relative of yours?” asked Elend.
At that Femi’s shoulders sagged. “My…” He forced the word out. “…Brother. Perix Ren. He owns a dingy pub called the Burning Pitch in the Narrows. He’s the last person I would seek out for help. But if anyone knows what that symbol is, it’ll be Perix. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
The quartet left the governor’s mansion and took the second exit on the left side of the Wheel towards the Narrows, a section of town so named because the streets were little more than alleys. As they entered the Burning Pitch, a haze of smoke and stale beer assaulted their senses. A couple patrons slouched at tables around the bar, lost in drink. All the energy in the room was focused on one diminutive form, legs dangling from a barstool and a scowl dragging down his features.
“Perix Ren?” Norros called out.
“Who wants to know.” The Halfling picked up a jagged knife, leveled it at Norros, then chuckled, and cut a piece from an apple.
Elendithas stepped forward. “Hi. I’m El. I’m a bard. I’m from Thousand Spires, but I’m here in Cold Harbor seeking fame and fortune.”
“El, huh?” The Halfling took a bite of apple. “Doesn’t sound like your full name.”
“It’s Elend, really. And that’s Norros, Danath, and Nadarr.”
“Dragonborn have surnames, if memory serves,” said Perix shifting his gaze to Nadarr. “What’s yours.”
“I think I knew me a Kasdann once. But he wasn’t green like you.”
“Look, enough small talk,” said Norros. “We want some information. We were led to believe you might have it.”
Perix took a long look at Norros. “Cutting to the chase. I like that. But I don’t like you.”
“Just so we’re clear, I don’t like you either.”
“Norros!” said Elendithas, and then quieter. “Be polite.”
“I’m only going to talk to the pretty one now. Come here, darling.”
Elendithas took a step forward and handed Perix the drawing of the brand.
“Maybe I know what this is. Maybe I don’t. I’m a businessman, see. And my business is twofold. Information. And favors. You do me a favor, I give you information.”
“What do you want us to do?”
“There’s a ship docked in the harbor by the name of Archon. All week, sealed crates have been taken aboard as cargo. It sails tomorrow. I have an itch to know what’s in those crates. You find out, I might know what that symbol is.”
“That’s all we have to do?” said Elendithas.
“What, you want more? All right. You and the Dragonborn find out about that cargo. I have a special project for the two Half-Elves. My brother Femi works for the governor. His house is across the street from the mansion. In his house, he has our father’s will. Our father is sickly, and before he dies, I’d like to get my hands on his will, so I can…improve it. Get me the will and the cargo, and we shall see.”
Elendithas looked at her companions. Nadarr shrugged. Norros nodded. Danath sighed and also gave a reluctant nod.
“Be back by midnight tonight, or the deal is off,” said Perix as they left the smoke-filled pub.
They returned to the Wheel and split up, agreeing to meet in Elend’s room at the Toothless Orc when they finished their missions. As Danath and Norros headed back toward the mansion, Elendithas and Nadarr walked toward the docks.
“As luck would have it,” said Elend, “I came to Cold Harbor aboard the Archon. Captain Naryn and I even became friends. She showed me all sorts of things about nautical life. Did you know a rope is just a rope until it has a job, and then it’s called a ‘line.’”
“Fascinating,” said Nadarr.
“We could sneak on board and have a look,” said Elend, unfazed by Nadarr’s laconic sarcasm. “Or we could talk to sailors in the pub. If they’re sailing tomorrow, they’re surely getting drunk tonight. Or we could just go see the captain.”
“We aren’t the sneakiest people I’ve ever met,” said Nadarr. “And I’m the one with the poison breath. I don’t want drunk sailors breathing piss-water stench on me all night.”
“The captain it is, then. Tra la la.”
Elend boarded the Archon and found her friend straightaway pacing the deck with a clipboard in hand. “Captain Naryn. Hello? Reina?”
“Elendithas. What a surprise.” Captain Reina Naryn was tall and her dark curls reflected the full moon’s glow. She wore twin blades across her back and her leather armor fitted her lithe form perfectly. “What brings you aboard my humble ship?”
“Oh, I…er…think I forgot something when I left the ship last week. I’ve been looking everywhere for my flute.”
“I haven’t seen it, unfortunately.”
“By the by, I keep seeing great big crates being loaded aboard. Silly me, I’m just so curious. What’s in them?”
“Cargo is cargo, as far as I’m concerned. Though, as a rule, I do like to know what I’m shipping. There’s twelve crates down in the hold right now. The Archon hasn’t sat this low in the water in many a month.”
“What’s in them? I’m dying to know…it’s for a…a…ballad I’m writing about your ship.”
“Well, they don’t pay me enough to keep secrets. Near as I can, it is every scrap of silver on Hourglass Island. Every coin, weapon, piece of jewelry and cutlery, plates, pitchers. All of it. I have no idea who bought it all, but it sure is strange. In my line of work, it pays not to ask too many questions.”
“Thanks, Reina. I hope you have a good voyage.” Elendithas began backing away down the gangplank. “Now what rhymes with silver?”
In the meantime, Norros and Danath stood at a distance surveying Femi Ren’s home. “I’m not very comfortable with the idea of stealing,” said Danath.
“You get used to it,” said Norros. “Come on.” As he said it, he flipped his hood up and started melting into the shadows. However, he didn’t see the pile of horse manure in his path. Squelch.
Danath couldn’t contain his laughter as his companion hopped around, a string of curses leaving his lips. “Look, I’ll stand guard. You do the thieving, oh stealthy one.”
Norros glowered at Danath as he wiped the manure from his boot with a stick. “Okay, but if you see anything, if anything goes wrong, the code word is ‘Pineapple.’”
“Pineapple. Got it.”
Thankfully, no one was in the street and Norros was able to fade into the shadows as he intended. The padlock on Femi’s basement door was little more than decoration. Norros slipped upstairs and found the study. Rifling through the desk, Norros liberated five gold coins for himself but found nothing else of consequence.
He turned his attention to the safe in the corner. It was a standard affair. He pulled a small listening device from his toolkit and, breathing shallowly, began turning the dial. The first number slotted into place with ease. He spun the dial the other direction but couldn’t find the notch. Starting again, the first number clicked in, then tck, tck, tck, click, he found the second slot. The third slot was child’s play, and the safe stood open. Hoping to uncover a treasure trove of gold, Norros was disappointed to find only papers in the safe. Everything was in the Halfling tongue, but Norros knew enough to find the will.
As he closed the safe, he heard voices out front. He gripped his dagger and, opening the window, slunk into the shadows of the exterior of the house. He heard Danath say, “No sir, I’m just waiting for Mr. Ren to come home so we can discuss a job opportunity. You see, I have certain skills. I can hunt and trap and survive in the wild. I really need work, and Mr. Ren said he’d see what he can do.”
“I hope you find yourself a job then,” said a jovial voice, and Norros saw the police officer take his hand off his nightstick. “Good evening.”
“Good evening,” said Danath, breathing a sigh of relief.
Norros materialized next to him on the porch. “I got it. Let’s get out of here.”
The adventurers met in Elendithas’s room at the inn and swapped stories. “I have a theory,” said Nadarr. “Why would someone want to ship all the silver off an island? What kind of creature doesn’t like silver? What did we just fight yesterday?”
“Those were regular wolves,” said Danath. “Not werewolves.”
Undeterred, Nadarr finished his line of thinking: “We haven’t seen the governor in town at all. Femi gave a us a flimsy excuse about campaigning in the south of the island. But the governor is appointed by the Duke in Torniel, so why should she need to campaign. Plus, all the silver is being shipped from the island. I think Governor Merta Glase is a werewolf!”
“That’s quite a leap of logic, Nadarr, but you could be right.”
“Either way, we need to figure out what we’re doing with this will,” said Danath. “I’m still not sure it’s a good idea to give it to Perix.” They went round and round about the will until the midnight deadline approached. In the end, the other three overruled him on the grounds that it wasn’t really their business and Perix was the old fellow’s son too.
They entered the Burning Pitch with about fifteen minutes to spare as Norros was explaining to Elendithas and Nadarr: “If anything goes wrong, just say ‘pineapple.’” This elicited a pair of awkward looks from his companions. “If you say so,” said Nadarr.
They found Perix Ren in a booth with his back to the wall and delivered the will. “Took you long enough,” he said. “It smells like Half-Elf. How long have you had this before bringing it to me.”
“Doesn’t matter,” said Norros, bristling. “You’ve got it within the time frame. Now out with it. What is that symbol.”
“Not so fast. What about the cargo.”
Elendithas told him about the island’s sudden lack of silver.
“Interesting.” Perix Ren stroked a scar that ran fully across his throat. “I wonder what that’s about.”
“I think the govern…”
Elendithas cut Nadarr off with a loud strum of her lyre. “Yes, well, what about your end of the bargain?”
“That symbol is the sign of a new player in Torniel. All hush hush. It’s called the Lupine Pact. I don’t know much about it, and don’t much care — as long as it doesn’t mess with my business in Cold Harbor.”
“And how do you know…” started Norros when Ren cut him off.
“If the information is good? Oh, it’s good. I have an acquaintance, a young lady with certain skills. She met her mark at the university guesthouse. He was a visiting dignitary from Torniel-by-the-Sea; well, let’s just say he talks in his sleep.”
“Oh,” said Elendithas, Norros, and Danath together.
“What?” said Nadarr. “What skills?”
The others shook their heads in disbelief at the strangely innocent paladin. “What’s this dignitary’s name? Is he still in Cold Harbor?” asked Elendithas.
Perix stroked his scabbed throat again. “You did me two favors. I guess that entitles you to two pieces of information. I don’t know if he’s still in town, but his name is Fenlis Silvern. I assume his surname is coincidental with that cargo. That’s all you get, so I suggest you take your leave. My friends are getting restless.”
He gestured to two enormous Half-Orcs in the neighboring booths. “Thanks, Mr. Ren,” said Elend. “We’ll be going now.” She scurried backwards out the door.
As they returned to the inn, Nadarr questioned the rogue. “Norros, you’re from Torniel. Have you ever heard of this Silvern?”
“Sure, everyone has. As far as I know, he’s a top advisor to the duke, or should I say the late Duke Esris. Some kind of arcane wizard, or so the gossip goes.”
“Important fellow, then,” said Danath.
“But that doesn’t help us know what to do now,” said Elend, yawning. The light of the two moons — one full, one waning toward three quarter — shone on her white teeth.
“I’d be more comfortable if I had a silver weapon in my hands,” said Nadarr, “assuming the governor is a werewolf.”
“I agree with the silver weapon part,” said Norros. “Let’s go steal some from the Archon.”
“What is it with you and stealing?” said Danath. “Why don’t we just ask the captain if we can buy some.”
“It’s worth a shot,” said Elend. “I guess it’s back aboard for me.”
Ten minutes later, Elend was clamoring up the gangplank again. Reina Naryn, still hard at work getting her ship ready to sail, greeted her from the steps leading to the forecastle. “Back again? Still looking for that flute? It’s kind of late for that, isn’t it?”
“Um…no…actually Reina, I was wondering if you might sell me and my friends a few silver weapons from your hold. We don’t quite feel safe on Hourglass Island without them, after what we’ve been through.”
“I’m afraid they’re not mine to sell,” said Reina. “However, I do have a tidy fortune aboard, and I’m the only one to defend it. These sailors of mine don’t know the hilt from the pointy end of a blade. How about you and your companions sail with us tomorrow as guards. It would help my peace of mind as we head to Port Eldasin.”
“Well, that’s a thought,” said Elendithas. “I did so enjoy my time as a swashbuckler.”
“A swashbuckler? Is that what you think of humble merchants like me?” said Reina, but the swords on her back glistening in the twin moons’ light betrayed her humility.
“Sounds like a good idea to me,” said Nadarr, after Elend explained the captain’s offer.
“Aboard a ship for days with a cargo full of silver coin? Sign me up,” said Norros.
“Never been a fan of water, but I don’t want to abandon you guys after all we’ve been through,” said Danath. “I’m in.”
“Okay,” said Elendithas. “Let’s meet back here first thing tomorrow. The ship sails with the morning tide.”
“I just want to check one more thing,” said Nadarr. “Norros, come with me.”
The paladin and rogue took a short walk to the guesthouse at the university. Ding. Ding. Ding! Nadarr rang the bell at the desk. Three more Dings! and another three finally brought a wizened, bearded old man grumbling from a back room. “Nasty students playing pranks at all hours of the night, ringing my bell and running off…students are the worse part of a university.” He arrived at the desk. “What do you want?”
“You had or have a guest staying by the name of Silvern. Is he still here?” asked Nadarr.
“Silvern? Silvern you say? This is why you wake me up in the middle of the night?”
“The quicker you check for us, the quicker you can go back to bed,” offered Norros. “Oh, and he might have had a lady friend one or more of the nights he was here.”
“Oh, those skills,” said Nadarr as comprehension dawned.
“Yes, yes, I remember the young lady. Quite attractive, too. They made an odd pair if memory …” A snore from the old man finished his sentence.
Ding! Norros struck the bell with extra relish. “What, what, what? Oh yes, Silvern. Here it is. Left two days ago, don’t know where, don’t much care. Not be off with you, rascals, and let an old-timer get some shut eye.”
Ever itchy-fingered, Norros snatched the bell and dropped it in his satchel. “What are you taking my bell for, you blackguard.” The old man turned to come back, then stood there and thought for a moment. “On second thought, thank you, sonny.”
The next morning dawned fine and bright. The Archon launched from port without incident, and several hours of clear sailing brought the ship to the edge of the Dread Shoals, while the adventurers found themselves in the hold prying open one of the crates. Norros snatched up as many silver coins as he could find, while the others looked for weapons. Most of their chosen crate was forks and spoons, but they did find a silver tipped rapier and two daggers for their trouble. Danath liberated several spoons to melt down for arrowheads, as well.
“Let’s keep looking,” said Norros, but even as he said it, they heard sounds of rapid movement above.
“Beat to quarters,” came Captain Naryn’s voice. “All hands on deck.”
The foursome raced upstairs and tumbled into the bright sunlight. “What is it, Reina?” asked Elendithas.
Captain Naryn pointed to a pair of sleek vessels streaking towards them.
“I can’t believe they’ve ventured this far north,” said the captain.
The two pirates ships slipped alongside, angled in such a way as to begin pushing the Archon towards the Dread Shoals and certain holing upon the jagged rocks.
“Oh, pineapple,” said Norros.
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