–Dark of the Moon, ch. 5–
In which Frea Marquis sends the party to intercept the shipment, but they soon find out they’re not the only ones in pursuit of the silver.
Dawn came wrapped in a blanket of fog and humidity that promised a scorching hot day. The four adventurers awoke to the sound of footsteps coming down the jetty.
“Where is she? Where’s that trickster?” Corbus materialized from the fog and stamped his way down the rotting planks. “Where’s my ‘friend’ Elendithas?”
Frea Marquis put her hand on the dwarf’s shoulder and stepped in front of him. “It’s of interest to me, my new acquaintances, how you encouraged Corbus into a delusion of friendship when you had never met face to face. This is a skill I would like to learn. It seems you may be of some use to me after all.”
Elendithas had been feigning sleep, but now she rose and said, “It’s just something I picked up in Thousand Spires.” She strummed her lyre. “I am quite charming, you know.”
“She is that,” agreed Norros. “Now, about what we spoke of last night…”
“Yes, yes,” said Frea. “I have decided that you shall become my business partners. You will take your boat down the Glassrun and intercept the barge carrying the crates to Torniel-by-the-Sea. My eyes in Port Eldasin tell me the barge awaiting the cargo is called Current Events. Take the barge by any means necessary and bring the silver to Miresedge. The sheriff there, a man named Rasmussen Wyle, will be waiting for it.”
“We can do that,” said Norros. “But what’s in it for us?”
Frea pointed to Cullun’s bloated dead body, which had entangled itself in a grove of gnarled tree roots jutting into the brackish water. “Being my business partner has many outcomes. See that yours does not end up like his. I have eyes all over Torniel. Do not fail me. Do not double cross me. And we shall all live long and happy lives.”
As she said this, Frea turned and walked up the jetty. Corbus glared at Elendithas and then followed Frea. The four friends had watched Cullun sail the day before, so they had learned the rudiments of piloting the skiff. They cast off from the jetty and found the mouth of the Glassrun. It was slow going, rowing and punting against the current. The scorching heat promised by the foggy dawn arrived around noon as they left the swamp behind them. Luckily a hot breeze picked up from the eastern coast. They were able to unfurl the sail and let the wind do some of the work.
As they sailed down the Glassrun, Nadarr said, “So what are we going to do when we find the silver?”
Danath looked up from waxing his bowstring. “Well, we know that the Lupine Pact wants it, presumably to destroy it or make it disappear. I assume they’re waiting for the shipment in Torniel-by-the-Sea.”
“We don’t want to let them get their hands on it,” said Elendithas. “If they are werewolves, they’d be nigh unstoppable if there were no silvered weapons in the region.”
“So we capture the barge,” said Nadarr. “Then what?”
“We could bring it to the city ourselves,” suggested Elendithas. “See if we can figure out who’s behind this whole scheme. Or take it back to Port Eldasin so none of the players get it.”
“Or we could do what Frea wants us to do,” said Danath. “Keep her off our backs. You saw what she did to Cullun. She’s ruthless.”
The three companions looked to Norros, who was being oddly silent. He looked up from testing the weight of his new silvered rapier. “I’m with Danath. If Rasmussen Wyle is who I think he is, then we can probably trust him.”
“Who do you think he is?” asked Elend.
“I grew up in an orphanage in Torniel-by-the-Sea called Wyle House. They were decent to me. I expect this Rasmussen is a decent sort too.”
“Frea did say he’s the sheriff,” offered Danath.
“Why would a sheriff need to consort with smugglers?” asked Nadarr. “Those mercenaries were trying to kill us, remember?”
“Maybe Wyle figured out the Lupine Pact’s conspiracy, and none of the higher-ups in Tornby listened to him, so he took matters into his own hands,” said Norros.
“It’s what the locals call Torniel-by-the-Sea. The full name is a mouthful.”
“So if this Wyle is on the right side of this whole thing, then maybe we can do good and keep Frea at bay if we take the silver to Miresedge like she commanded,” said Nadarr.
“Are we all agreed, then?” said Elendithas.
Her question was met with a chorus of yeses, and they turned their attention back to the river. The hot wind had picked up and they were making good time. The sun had just touched the horizon in front of them when they arrived at the fork where the River Eld and the Glassrun split.
“Right on time,” said Danath. “Look.” He pointed to a barge nosing its way down the River Eld towards them.
“How do we stop it?” said Elend.
“Just get in its way,” said Norros, and he punted the skiff forward.
“Oh no,” said Elend, as the barge swept closer. “Jump for it friends.”
As they leapt into the air, the two boats collided with a deafening crunch of splintering wood. Nadarr, Norros, and Elendithas landed on the larger boat. Danath landed in the water. They fished out the ranger before he got caught in the dangerous debris of the skiff.
“What do you think you’re doing?” screeched a voice from a ramshackle cabin at the stern of the barge. A thickset bearded man came storming out, waving one arm and sucking furiously on an empty pipe with the other. “Didn’t you see me coming? The bigger boat has the right of way, you dunces.”
“Is this the Current Events?” asked Elendithas in her sweetest voice.
Elend’s charm stopped the man’s rage in its tracks. “Yes, yes it is.” He took another pull from the empty pipe. “I am captain and crew of Current Events. My name is Dalvin Torn. And you are?”
Elendithas, Nadarr, and Danath introduced themselves.
“Steven,” said Norros.
“A strange name, master Half-Elf,” said Dalvin. “I’ve known a few of your kind in my days. Not many in the region of Torniel. But growing up back in Tornby, I knew my fair share. Yes, I did.”
“You’re from Tornby?”
“Born and raised. A whole army by the name of ‘Torn’ comes out of the Shambles every year. Same last name, but none related. Now there’s a riddle for you.”
“You’re an orphan. A ward of the Pinnacle. Where did you grow up?”
“A nasty place called Wyle House.”
“Me too. I’m Norros. Norros Arborshade.”
“Only sometimes. Not to another alumnus of the old homestead. It seems like you’ve done well for yourself, Dalvin.”
“Yes, yes, the work is steady and honorable.” Dalvin pinched something out of a small bag at his waist and pressed it into his pipe. “Could you light this for me, Dragonborn?”
Nadarr glared at his attempt at humor. “You don’t want me to do that.”
“No matter,” said the barge captain, who took a lantern off its hook and borrowed its flame. He sucked in a few experimental puffs until he was satisfied. The sun was now fully set and the twin moons hovered in the sky, one full, one waning.
“Look, Dalvin,” said Norros. “We need to commandeer your cargo. It’s headed to some bad people in Tornby and we can’t let them have it.”
“You don’t say,” said Dalvin. “I just take contracts from the shipping guild. Don’t know who the cargo’s for.”
“Do you see this symbol?” said Danath, pointing to the crates. “It’s the sign of the Lupine Pact. We don’t know who they are, but we do know they’re trouble. We fought off a whole pack of wolves branded with that symbol.”
“Um, speaking of wolves,” said Elendithas. “Look out!”
Just then, another barge emerged from the darkness and slammed into Current Events. A chorus of howls rent the air. Elendithas leapt across to the new barge and slammed her hand on the deck, releasing a thunderwave of energy in all directions. One massive wolf was pushed back, visibly injured. The other three glared at her, licking their chops. “Bad idea,” she said to herself, and leapt back to Dalvin’s barge. Two of the wolves snapped at her heals but got nothing but air.
The dire wolves followed her and this time their fangs found flesh. Her three companions distracted them enough to let her escape behind the crates, bleeding and close to unconsciousness.
“Wolves to me,” howled another voice, and the dire wolves leapt back to their original barge. As they did so a young woman appeared from the darkness. She left her barge a human and landed on Current Events a werewolf. The light of the full moon gilded her dark fur. “Let’s see how you handle me.”
Norros dashed forward from his hiding spot behind the crates, slashed with his silvered rapier, and then dashed away. Danath let fly an arrow. It struck the wolf, who just laughed and pulled out the arrow. She snapped it in two and tossed it aside. “You’ll have to do better than that.”
Nadarr pulled a silvered dagger from the bag of holding and swiped at the werewolf, who dodged away, cackling gleefully. A well-placed swipe of her claws and bite of her teeth put Nadarr on the ground. Danath rushed over and gave his friend a healing potion to bring him back to consciousness. Norros struck again and danced away. Elendithas began prying open a crate, trying to find another weapon that would have any effect on the werewolf.
The werewolf lashed out again at Danath this time. The dire wolves on the other barge howled and barked but did not re-enter the fray without their master’s permission. Norros struck a third time. Danath retrieved the second silvered dagger. He and Nadarr both found their mark.
“Where did you get those weapons?” The werewolf’s voice quaked with sudden fear. “Wolves, attack.” As she said it, Norros struck one last time, and the werewolf fell. On the deck of the barge returned to her human form, she seemed so small in death.
Seeing their master fall, the dire wolves charged. Elendithas stepped forward with her rapier and met one head on. Danath dropped the dagger and put arrow to bowstring. Nadarr picked up his battleaxe. Norros waited for his moment to strike from the shadows.
Two dire wolves fell to the companions’ blades and arrows. However, the other two wolves proved too much. Danath fell and then Nadarr for the second time. A wolf knocked Elendithas down next to the dead body of the young woman, who had been stricken with the curse of lycanthropy. As she lost consciousness, Elend noticed the brand of the Lupine Pact on her bare shoulder. And something else – a tattoo of a heart on her forearm. Inside the heart was a name: “Bela.”
Norros was the only one still conscious. Cowering behind the crates, he watched a second human emerge from the smaller barge, step across to Current Events, walk past the dead body of his companion, and enter the ramshackle pilot’s cabin. A loud thunk reverberated into the night, and Dalvin’s unconscious body flopped into view. The man slipped silently from the cabin and came around the side of the crates. He cocked his head to one side as he saw Norros crouching. “Wolves,” he growled. “Finish him.”
The last things Norros saw before the black took him were fangs.
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