On the Courier’s Trail

–Dark of the Moon, ch. 7–

In which the party arrives in Norros’s hometown of Torniel-by-the-Sea, befriends a young orphan, and discovers more missing silver.

←Read Chapter 6: The Duke’s Seal


Tornby3
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“They say the bridges only go one way in Tornby.” Norros pointed to the stone arch as they passed under it. “People from north of the river hardly ever go south of it. But lots of folks from the south work in the north — menial jobs mostly.”

“I don’t like cities,” said Danath. “There are never enough trees.”

“I’m from a city several times bigger than this one,” said Elendithas. “You’d probably hate it in Thousand Spires.”

The boat came to rest at a working port backed by warehouses and stacks of crates, containers, and barrels. Danath blanched at the sight of miles of warehouses all in a row. “Let’s not stay too long, okay?”

“What’s our first stop, Norros?” asked Nadarr.

“The Shambles. My old stomping ground. I want to check in on our sheriff’s mother.”

“You know her?”

“I certainly do. So did Dalvin, the barge captain. I sure hope he’s not dead.”

None of the buildings in the Shambles was built perpendicular to the ground. They all leaned over the narrow streets and alleys, blocking much of the midday sun. Danath shuddered and kept a wary eye out. It didn’t take long for his wariness to be rewarded. His arm shot out and gripped a thin wrist reaching under Nadarr’s chain mail.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he said.

The pickpocket tried to pull out of his grip. “Please, sir, please. If I don’t bring home a few coppers a day, Honey will be so h-h-h-horrible to me.”

“What’s your name, girl?” asked Elendithas, bending down and looking in the grime-covered face.

“Eri, miss. Eri Torn.”

“And how old are you, Eri?”

“Honey says I’m nine, and I’m glad of that because once we’re ten we have to bring more coin back to the orphanage, and I’m not a very good thief or beggar.”

“You need to be quicker,” said Norros. “I’ll show you how it’s done sometime.”

“Here, my dear,” said Elendithas, producing a gold coin from her purse. “Take this.”

“A whole gold coin, miss? I’ve never even seen a gold coin before!” Eri took it in trembling hands and bit it.

“It’s real, sweetling. Now, if I understand aright, we’re heading to your home on business. Would you take us there? There’ll be another coin like that one for you when we get there, so you can keep one for yourself.”

“Oh, miss, you are too kind,” said Eri, who took Elend by the hand and started tugging her down the street.

Wyle House was the largest building they had seen since entering the Shambles, and it was in better repair than most. A wrought iron fence gated a narrow, weed-strewn yard, and weeds also bordered the pavestones on the pathway to the front door. The door opened as they approached to reveal an elderly woman wearing a dress and apron and holding a wooden mixing spoon.

“What have we here?” she asked with perhaps too much sweetness dripping from her voice. “Eri, whom have you brought to our door? Well, I’ll be, is that Mr. Norros Arborshade. Land’s sakes, if it hasn’t been a dozen years since I’ve seen your face. Come and let me give it a kiss.”

Norros obliged, and the kiss came attached to an odor of strong perfume mixed with sweat. He remembered that smell all too well. “Hello, Honey. It has been a long time.”

Honey Wyle addressed Elend, Danath, and Nadarr. “Mr. Arborshade was one of my star pupils. Don’t rightly know why your parents gave you up, but they did so with quite a stipend attached to you, so I didn’t ask too many questions.” She laughed a little too heartily. “Unlike these Torns multiplying year by year.” She kicked out at Eri, who dodged away and hid behind Elendithas.

Nadarr’s hand went instinctively to his longsword, but Norros waved him off. “Honey, we met your son, Rasmussen, recently. In fact, he sent us here to Tornby on a mission.”

“Figures he’d send someone else to say ‘hello’ than to come himself. I hardly ever see that boy of mine. Only true flesh and blood I have, but does he ever write or visit?” Honey looked around expectantly. No one spoke up. “No,” she finished for herself.

“Excuse me, Ms. Honey,” said Elendithas. “We heard that the Duke of Torniel died recently. Do you know who has taken his place?”

“Dukes don’t have much say here in the Shambles. One head of government is much like the next, as far as I’m concerned. As long as I still get my subsidy for each of these wards of the Pinnacle like this scamp,” –  she grabbed Eri’s arm and pulled her out from behind Elend –  “then they can do what they please.”

“I don’t remember you being so rough, Honey,” said Norros.

“Why, child, that’s because you paid your own way.”

“Come on, let’s get out of here. Eri, can you show us where we can get something to eat?”

Eri struggled free of Honey’s grip and skipped down the steps. “Follow me.”

“You come home by sundown, you grimy rascal,” Honey called out and then slammed the door behind her.

Eri led them to a pub at the outskirts of the Shambles. Four men staggered out as they approached, singing drunkenly as they weaved their way up the alley. Norros winked at Eri and went out of his way to bump into a pair of them. They were none the wiser. He flipped two coin purses into Eri’s hands. “Like I said, you need to be quicker.”

They entered the now empty pub to find a hairy bartender wiping the counter with a soiled towel. Four pisswaters were plunked in front of them in dirty steins with gruff fanfare. The bartender echoed Honey Wyle’s sentiments: “The Pinnacle don’t care much about the Shambles, so why should we in the Shambles care much about the Pinnacle?”

“I’m getting the feeling we’re on the wrong side of the river,” said Danath.

“I’m getting the feeling that all of our money is in too large of a denomination for this place,” said Elendithas. “Norros, don’t you have some silver coin you stole from the Archon?”

“I might,” he said.

“You do!” said Elend, producing a silver coin from somewhere on Norros’s person.

“How’d you do that?”

“You’re not the only one with quick hands.” She flipped the coin onto the bar and they exited with Norros scratching his head in wonder.

“I’ve never been north of the river before,” said Eri. “Can I come, please? What an adventure it will be!”

“Of course you can, dear,” said Elend. “I’ve never been north of the river either. But this is my first time in Torniel-by-the-Sea, after all.”

They stopped at the apex of the bridge as Norros pointed out the sights. “In the distance is Castle Esris. That’s in the district called the Pinnacle, where all the government buildings are. Highest point in all Torniel is the top of the castle. South of the Pinnacle along the Sea of Torn is the district of Seaside North. Only eight estates along several miles of coastline. Rich people live there like the Dowager Duchess Caminda Esris and Ora Orani the famous painter.”

“My father has one of her works in his study,” said Elendithas.

“Your father has an original Orani?” said Danath. “Even I’ve heard of her!”

Norros continued. “Then there’s the Cobbles: Guild district. Shopping of every sort. Banks, as well. And finally ‘The Fountain,’ which is where I’ve done most of my ‘performing’ over the last few years. Restaurants, inns, the park, and the Eldasin Library. That’s mammoth structure you can see from here.”

“Let’s go to the bank first,” said Nadarr. “Need to change out some of this gold for smaller coin.”

The Cobbles was as clean as the Shambles was dirty. Hawkers called out their wares, and people bustled to and fro. As they passed boutique after boutique, Elendithas eyed the beautiful dresses and scarves and hats in the windows.

“That’s my father’s bank,” she said as they arrived at a busy crossroads and stopped under a sign that read, “Bank of Thousand Spires.”

“Account number?” said the teller sleepily. Elendithas rattled off a series of numbers in a little melody. She whispered to Nadarr. “Singing it helps me remember it.”

“Oh my,” said the teller. “One moment, please.” The teller disappeared and a moment later a well-dressed man walked stiffly to the counter.

“And you are?”

“Lady Elendithas Day, daughter of Lord Sondal Day, who’s account I’m attempting to access.”

“Papers?”

Elendithas produced an elegant piece of vellum full of calligraphy and colorful crests.

“Everything seems to be in order,” said the bank manager. “As of the last message from Thousand Spires, this account has 10,350 Platinum and 427 Gold at its disposal.”

Danath and Norros gaped at Elendithas.

“All right,” said Elend. “I’d like to withdraw 100 Platinum, please.”

“Ah,” said the manager, “I do apologize, but as I read the note attached, it appears I am only authorized to dispense a single piece of gold to you at this time, as per the orders of the primary account holder. Also, this.”

The manager handed Elend a gold piece and a note sealed with orange wax, an ornate letter “D” embossed within. She cracked the wax, unfolded the letter, and read. As she did so, lines furrowed her brow. She stowed the note before anyone else could see it.

“Who’s the note from?” asked Nadarr.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” said Elend. “From my father. Tra la la.” Then turning to the manager, she recomposed herself and said, “If I can’t take out gold, might I at least exchange some for smaller coin?”

“But of course, mi’lady.”

“Let’s change 20 gold into a mix of silver and copper, then.”

The manager bowed and walked around the corner. Norros watched him spin the dial on the vault, just out of habit. A minute late, the manager returned. “I’m sorry, mi’lady, but I’m afraid I cannot fulfill this request either. It turns out, we have no silver coin in our vault. I am at a loss. I do not know where it could be.”

“Was it stolen?” asked Nadarr.

“I don’t believe so. The books have all checked out over the last week, and I’m sure we had some silver here even a few days ago.”

“This may seem an odd request, but can you see if someone withdrew it all recently?”

The manager scanned the ledger for a moment. “Oh my goodness, you are correct. But, but, the account number was never entered. I have no idea what account exchanged this coin. This is most troubling indeed.”

“Can you tell us anything, at all? By happenstance, we are investigating missing silver even now.”

“Yes, yes, it seems a courier named Thevir was tasked with collection of the coin, though assuredly it is not his account. I can’t imagine a simple courier being able to exchange that much tender.”

“Do you know this Thevir?”

“I can’t say I do.”

“Thank you, very much,” said Nadarr. “Let’s go.” He gripped a dazed Elendithas and directed her from the bank.

“Look,” said Danath. “There’s an Arcanery across the street. We need some healing potions, since I foresee some more scraps in our future and we’ve already had a few too many close calls.”

They entered the shop. The walls were lined with vials containing liquids of various hues and consistencies. Approaching the desk, they waited as the clerk bent over a round beaker and let a single drop fall from a pipette. The blue liquid filtered through orange to bright yellow and shone with a soft glow. “Truth serum,” she said looking the party up and down. “Too rich for your blood, I’m afraid.”

“That could be useful,” said Nadarr. “How much?”

“If you have to ask, you can’t possibly afford it.”

“We’re in the market for healing potions, not truth serum,” said Danath.

“They’re too rich for you, as well. One hundred gold apiece for the most common one.”

“You’ve got to be kidding. That’s outrageous.”

“It’s simple economics. I have a supply. You have a demand.”

“Speaking of supply and demand,” said Nadarr. “We’ve heard there’s a silver shortage in Torniel. Maybe we could pay in silver. It must be worth more than gold at this point. How much is a potion if we pay with silver coin?”

“Let me see. There are ten silver in a gold piece. I am no expert in maths, but that makes a potion one thousand silver.”

“Let me try,” said Norros. “Do you have any potions that use liquid silver in them?”

“Yes, there are a few. They are not on the shelves though, as their ingredients are more precious than most.”

“Can you go check if you have any?”

The clerk huffed away through a curtain. A few minutes later, she returned scowling.

“What kind of scam are you running, you scoundrels?”

“Excuse me,” said Nadarr.

“You come into my shop, remind me there’s a silver shortage, and then ask me to go check if I have any silver potions. I do and find that they’ve all been purchased conveniently the day before. By an accomplice of yours, no doubt.”

“We don’t know what you’re talking about, I assure you,” said Nadarr. “We are investigating the silver shortage, that is all.”

“Do your records say who purchased the potions?” asked Elendithas.

“I’m afraid not. They were paid for with coin by a simple courier. I remember the brute. A young dwarf with barely any growth of beard at all, but what he did have was bright red. He stomped in here like he owned the place. But he paid good coin for the potions, so I sold them. Supply and demand, after all.”

“Well, you’re right,” said Danath. “Your potions are too rich for our blood. For now. Come on, gang, let’s go.” They exited the Arcanery with Danath still talking. “Thevir sounds like a dwarf name. And if he’s young like the clerk said, it stands to reason has hasn’t been granted his title yet. We’re making progress. But where to now?”

“I want to investigate a tavern,” said Norros. “I’m starving.”

“I’m with you,” said Danath.

“I’m going to go look up this Thevir at the library,” said Nadarr. “They’re bound to have records of the city’s residents.”

“I’m going to take Eri shopping,” said Elendithas. “Maybe get her a bath. I’ve got an idea we might be able to find her a job if she cleans up a bit. Get her away from that awful Honey woman.”

The adventurers parted ways with a plan to meet at the library later that day. Danath and Norros stopped at the first pub they found, just as they entered the Fountain district from the Cobbles. The Mouse and Cobbler looked much like the Toothless Orc in Cold Harbor: dark wood paneling, shields adorning the wall, a long line of taps, and a dour looking dwarf wiping down the bar. The two Half-Elves took stools at the bar. “What do you suggest?” asked Danath. “And don’t say pisswater.”

The bartender looked affronted. “The pubs owned by Marn Brewmaster don’t serve pisswater, master hunter. Here, try the Pinnacle Ale.” He slid mugs of dark amber beer with a generous head across the bar to Danath and Norros.”

“I appreciate a skilled pour,” said Danath.

“For saying that, I think I’ll join you in a pint,” said the bartender. “Brunn’s the name.”

“Danath.”

“Steven.”

“You look familiar, Steven.”

“Just one of those faces.”

“Are you sure I haven’t seen you entertaining near the fountain before?”

“I think you’re mixing me up with someone else.”

“Barkeep, we’re new to Tornby,” said Danath, in an effort to change the subject. “We heard Duke Esris died. Do you know who has taken his place?”

“All sorts of rumors fly from the Pinnacle these days,” said Brunn. “Some say Duchess Samara has taken over. Others that the council is running the show without the Lady’s input. Others say the dowager is calling the shots from her estate in Seaside North. No one rightly knows. But as long as it doesn’t hurt business, what does it matter, says I.”

“Say, you’re a dwarf,” said Norros.

“Well spotted, sonny.”

“Do you know a dwarf named Thevir. Unimpressive red beard. Courier.”

“Just ‘cause we’re both dwarves doesn’t mean we know each other.”

“Of course not.”

“But in this case, I’m sorry to say I do. Nasty, entitled piece of work, that one. Freelance courier he is, but picks up one or two jobs for the Pinnacle and all of a sudden he’s too big for his britches.”

“Do you know where we can find him?”

“Might try the postmans guild hall north of here, abutting the Pinnacle wall where the Cobbles and Fountain meet.” With that, the bartender drained his mug and went off to help other customers.

Just then, Elendithas and a young girl in a lovely deep green dress entered the pub and approached the Half-Elves. “Eri?” said Norros.

Eri giggled. “Didn’t know I could get this clean,” she said, twirling around so her dress spun outward.

“You could be Elend’s little sister.”

“Cousin, actually,” said Elendithas. “That’s the gambit today. We’ve got a plan.”

Brunn returned to take her order. “Excuse me,” said Elend, “My little cousin here is looking for employment. Might you have some job she could do?”

Brunn eyed the slip of a girl in front of him. “Too young to serve alcohol, so she couldn’t be a waiter.”

“What about something more domestic?”

“Did just have a chambermaid skip a few shifts. Her job might be open. Tell me, girl, what’s your name?”

Eri’s eyes went wide in response to the direct address. “Uh, uh. Eri, sir. Eri…” She looked wildly from Norros to Danath to Elendithas. “Eri… Day.”

“Well, Eri Day. You look a bit scrawny, but I’m not one to judge by appearances. Run upstairs and make the beds in room three. I’m timing you, so get going.”

Eri dashed away. “She’s quick, that one,” said Norros.

Brunn’s idea of timing was to drink off another mug of Pinnacle Ale in one go. He slammed the mug on the table just as Eri reappeared.

“Well done, lass,” said Brunn. “I think you’ve got yourself a new gig. I’ll just have to approve it with the owner. Your quarters are on the top floor. Three square meals a day in the kitchen. You’ll work long hours, but there might be a bit of learning in it, as well.”

Eri hugged Elendithas with terrific fervor. “Thank you, thank you…uh…cousin. How could I ever repay you?”

“Just be good and stay out of trouble. I’m sure we’ll see you again. Good bye for now, sweetling.”

They left Eri waving at the doorway. “Let’s go through the park,” suggested Norros. “Give old Danath here a breath of fresh air.”

The Eldasin Library spanned the entire northern length of the park; in fact, the thoroughfare leading to the Pinnacle ran under an arch built into the building. They entered to find Nadarr perusing a stack of papers. A bespectacled young woman stood next to him holding the folder from which the papers must recently have been removed.

“Thevir’s had more than a dozen addresses,” said Nadarr. “And according to Miss Pell here, the last three are all impossible, as they would be in the middle of the Sea of Torn if they were real.”

“How far back do the fake addresses go?” asked Norros.

The young woman answered, “About five years. Wait…Norros? Is that you?”

“Lorna? Lorna Pell?”

“You remembered my name!” Her cheeks flushed, and she started to walk away only to turn a wide circle and come back. “It’s good to see you, Norros. It’s been a few months. Where have you been?”

“Oh here and there. Cold Harbor most recently. How is my favorite under-librarian?”

“I’m fine. Just fine. I’ve been deep in my own research of late. Terribly fascinating stuff. You might be interested if you say you’ve been to Cold Harbor.”

“You are simply charming,” said Elendithas. “Do tell us your research.” She nudged Norros.

“Yes, Lorna. What’s so fascinating?”

“I’m not sure fascinating is the right word. Perplexing might be more to the point. I’ve been researching the seafaring origins of the ancient Tornellans — first on Hourglass, then on Sularil proper. How they traveled down the River Eld and founded Tornby. Before that they were a coastal people who fished and dug shellfish for food. They built their boats from…”

“Lorna,” interrupted Norros. “Focus. What’s so perplexing about the ancient Tornellans?”

“It’s not them, exactly.” Lorna pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “It’s the tides; the moon’s effect on the tides to be exact. After looking in the history books, I cross-referenced dozens of other texts — general science, geography, geology, biography, astronomy, carto…”

“Lorna!”

“Right. This is going to sound crazy, but there’s no mention of there being two moons in the sky at all. There’s only one moon in the books. A single moon that waxes and wanes. There’s nothing about a perpetually full moon. And yet it’s always been in the sky. Always. I just don’t understand.”

“That is curious,” said Norros.

“Very curious,” said Danath. “A connection to the wolf attacks?”

“Could be.” Then turning to the librarian, Norros said, “Lorna, thanks. We won’t breathe a word of your research to anyone. And you best not either. You never know what might be dangerous.” He took her hand and and kissed it. “I just want you to be safe.”

They left the library as the sun was descending. The full moon hung low in the sky as always; the other continued to evaporate towards a half moon. “We could check out the first house on the list,” said Nadarr. “Maybe it’s where Thevir was born? It’s in a district called ‘The Vale.’”

“That’s back south of the river,” said Norros. “Let’s check out the guild hall first. It’s nearby.”

A twenty minute walk brought them to the edge of the Pinnacle and to a door marked “Postmans: We Deliver.”

Just as Nadarr was about to knock, the door swung open, and they stood face to face with a young dwarf whose red beard was arriving in uneven patches.

“Thevir?”

The door slammed in their faces.

(Level 3)


Chapter 8: Quicksilver and Sunlight→


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

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