Quicksilver and Sunlight

–Dark of the Moon, ch. 8–

In which the companions run all over Torniel-by-the-Sea chasing a courier.

←Read Chapter 7: On the Courier’s Trail

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“Thevir!” Norros shouted, jiggling the handle of the now locked door.

“Stand back. I’ve got this.” Nadarr jogged back several paces and charged.

“Not again,” said Danath as Nadarr’s shoulder collided with the solid wood. The door buckled but held.

“Haven’t you learned yet,” said Norros, whipping out his lock pick.

“I’m going around back,” said Elendithas, who took off at a run.

Thirty precious seconds of jiggling and fiddling later, and the door stood open. They rushed in to find an empty office. Norros dashed to the back room, while Nadarr and Danath mounted the second floor. That’s when they heard Elend’s distant call, coming from the back alley: “Guys, he’s getting away!”

Norros burst through the back door, which opened onto the alley abutting the wall of the Pinnacle. Elend was running up ahead, and in the distance a small red figure was scurrying away. From the second story window, Danath jumped and landed next to the rogue. “Let’s go. Come on, Nadarr.”

The Dragonborn huffed back down the stairs and out into the alley. Norros and Danath gained on Elendithas, and then the three gained on the dwarf. Thevir glanced back at the rapidly approaching adventurers, dropped what he was carrying, and slammed his way into the back of a shop.

Elend slowed to examine the box. Norros slipped inside after the dwarf. Danath and a winded Nadarr went around front. The street was busy in the evening rush of people heading home south of the river after a long day’s work. The sprint up the alley had brought them almost to the main thoroughfare that linked the Cobbles with the Pinnacle. “I’m going inside,” said Nadarr.

“I’ll keep watch.” Danath craned his neck this way and that looking for the red-haired dwarf. Spotting a likely candidate turning left onto the thoroughfare, Danath jogged to catch up. Spinning the dwarf around, Danath said, “Thevir?”

“I’m sorry,” said the dwarf. “But you’ve got me confused with someone else.”

Danath hadn’t gotten a good look at the courier when they opened the door at Postmans. Politeness warred with suspicion for a moment inside him. Suspicion won. “You’re sure you’re not Thevir?”

“Name’s Mullen. Now shove off with you, Half-Elf, before I call the guard.”

Danath took a step back and nodded. As the dwarf turned, Danath whispered, “Nera hilagri,” and the dwarf lit up in his mind. “Gotcha,” he said as he trotted back to the shop.

Nadarr’s angry voice could be heard from outside. “Look, if you won’t let me use your facilities, then I’ll buy something first. Then I’ll be a customer, and you’ll have to let me…”

But the paladin’s protestations were cut short by a shrill cry from the alley. It was Elendithas. In an instant, her three friend were at her side. “I was trying to open this box when I triggered a pressure switch. My dagger’s on it now, but I can’t move.”

“Let me see what I can do,” said Norros. He whipped out his thieves’ tools and set to work. “Uh oh.” A hiss of acrid gas escaped the box, and they heard the sound of dripping. “I think there’s a canister of something rigged to blow. Almost got it. Hold steady.” He slid a thin hook and blade into the gap and pulled out a taut piece of twine. Slicing through it, he said, “There, that’ll do it.”

Elendithas opened the box. Norros was right. A canister full of acid was cracked and dripping, but most of its contents were still inside. The box contained six vials filled with liquids of varying hues, as well as a note. Part of it was eaten away by the acid, but they could make out most of its contents. Elend read aloud: “ ‘Silvern, We need at most a week more to prepare. These supplies better be enough to keep the enchantment going for that long.’ The symbol of the Lupine Pact is scrawled at the bottom. The box is addressed to Fenlis Silvern, Glass Sea Tower, Castle Esris, The Pinnacle, Torniel-by-the-Sea.”

“The guy Perix Ren told us about in Cold Harbor?” said Nadarr. “The one who gave away the name of the Lupine Pact?”

“The same it would seem.”

“How is the court wizard mixed up in all this?” asked Danath.

“We could go ask him.”

“And try to get into the Pinnacle?” said Norros. “Believe me, I’ve tried. That place is a fortress.”

“Well, there must be a way,” said Elend. “We could bluff our way in as couriers delivering this box.”

“I think we should stick to the dwarf,” said Danath. “I cast my hunter’s mark on him just in case he hoodwinked me. Let’s go catch up with him.”

“Hold on a tick. I just want to check upstairs in this shop. Make sure he’s not hiding up there.” Norros took the outside staircase two at a time and alighted on an upper landing. The door was unlocked. He came out crestfallen a few minutes later. “No dwarf and nothing to steal. You’d think a haberdasher would have a few oddments lying around. But it’s just hats as far as the eye can see.”

The four adventurers slipped down alleys and side streets using Norros’s special knowledge of the city, and they made good time. They caught up to the dwarf as he was approaching the bridge to Southriver. “Excuse me,” said Elendithas. “Yes, you, master dwarf. We’re looking for a kinsman of yours named Thevir. Do you know him?”

Eying Danath suspiciously, the dwarf said, “Look, just ‘cause I’m a dwarf doesn’t mean I know all the other dwarves in Tornby. I don’t know this Thevir everyone seems so obsessed with. Now leave me alone.”

He stalked off. “Either Thevir is an incredibly good liar,” said Elend. “Or you’re tracking the wrong dwarf, Danath. I didn’t sense any deceit in him.”

“Let’s go back to Postmans and see if we can figure out where he might have gone,” said Nadarr.

They trekked back the way they had come. It was nearing full dark when they arrived at the guildhall. “Keep an eye out,” said Norros. He whipped out his lock pick. “This one should be easy. I already picked it once…uh oh.” He held his pick up to the moonlight. The tip was missing, having broken off in the lock.

“Stand back. I’ve got this,” said Nadarr, who once again charged the door.

“Nadarr, no!” said Elend, but it was too late. The door splintered under Nadarr’s weight and momentum. Pedestrians walking along the street heard the commotion. “Guards! Guards! Someone’s breaking into Postmans!”

Six of Tornby’s finest came rushing into view.

“Pineapple! Pineapple!” said Norros. “Meet at the Fountain. I’ll get the battering ram.”

Danath and Elend fled. Norros vanished from sight, entered the building, grabbed Nadarr, and yanked him outside. “Subtlety is not your strong suit, is it, friend.”

Norros’s knowledge of the backstreets got them to the Fountain without incident. “You can’t just go breaking and entering in the middle of a busy street,” said Danath when the four were together again.

“Noted,” said Nadarr. “But, hey, at least I got one to open.”

“What do we do now?” said Elendithas.

“Let’s get something to eat,” said Danath. “Check in on Eri at the Mouse and Cobbler, then head to the Vale to see if we can find the first of Thevir’s addresses. Maybe someone there knows where he is.”

The tavern was a short walk from the Fountain, and all along the way they saw signs posted that read: “Rejoice Torniel! Duchess Samara Esris to be installed as head of state. All are welcome to attend this joyous occasion.”

“It’s dated tomorrow at noon,” said Elendithas. “Oh, oh! I think I’m having a plan!”

“We’ll be able to get into the Pinnacle,” said Nadarr. “Maybe even the castle tower. We could go see this Silvern.”

“Oh no, I want nothing to do with that Pinnacle place. I’ve near enough had my fill of cities.” Danath plunked himself down on a bar stool.

“You can stay here then,” said Nadarr. “Guard the box we found. We don’t want to bring it to Silvern if it’s helping him with some sort of enchantment.”

“Hello, Mr. Brunn,” said Elend. “What’s your impression of Lady Samara? Is she a good sort?”

Brunn put a glass of wine in front of the pretty bard. “This one’s on the house, Miss Day. I’ve got to tell you, I had my doubts about your little cousin, but she is a breath of fresh air. Don’t think I’ve smiled as much on a day as I have today. And this isn’t a face made for smiling.” The barkeep pointed to his generally dour expression. “Thank you for bringing her here.”

“Oh, I’m so glad Eri is working out,” said Elend. “Now, about the duchess?”

“Don’t know much. Seems a decent sort, but a bit reclusive, especially since her son died. She’s a cleric, you know, so I expect she thought she could have done more to save him. That was five years ago. Glad to see her stepping up now though, that the duke is gone.”

They ate a late dinner in peace, and then made the long walk to the Vale. The address they obtained from Lorna Pell brought them to a small but well appointed dwelling with a white picket fence around a manicured lawn and garden. Norros went up to the door and knocked. “Yes?” A human woman addressed them from the doorway.

“Excuse me, ma’am, we’re from the Postmans Guild Enforcement Squad. Looking for a dwarf named Thevir. Failure to deliver, you know. Very serious. This is his last known address.”

“I’m sorry, but there are no dwarves here. Just me and my family.”

“Thank you, ma’am. Sorry to bother you.” The door closed, and Norros tried the next house. Another woman answered the door, holding a sleeping child. “Shhh. She just went down. What do you want?”

Norros repeated his cover story.

“Family of dwarves lived there years ago – when I was a girl. Then they up and left, heading back to Anvilcairn. Think a son stayed here in Tornby, but I haven’t seen him since.” The baby started whimpering. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

“No luck,” said Norros. “Thevir hasn’t been here in years.”

“Maybe we just sleep on it and try to find out more at the Pinnacle tomorrow,” said Elendithas.

“I wish we weren’t going in so blind,” said Nadarr.

“You always go in blind!” said Danath. “Norros, do you have any contacts here in Tornby that could help us at all.”

“Well, there’s old Karfu.”

A fifteen minute walk found them back in the Shambles. “How do we find this Karfu?” said Elend.

“You just have to know where to look,” said Norros. “See that sign above the pub. One chain is missing a link. And there, down the street, the gutter on that building is dented just so.” They walked along, Norros pointing out seemingly random eccentricities of the ramshackle district that all seemed to point to a particular sewer grate near the Docks. As it started creaking open, they heard a deep rasp say, “Who goes there?”

“It’s Steven.”

“Norros? Are you still using that bloody nickname?”

The Half-Orc pulled Norros into a bone-crushing embrace. “It’s been too long. Ever since you got wise and skipped to the other side of the river, you’ve had no love for old Karfu. An orc could take it personally. Good thing I’m just half an orc.”

There was something both menacing and playful in Karfu’s tone. Elendithas decided to be charming. “Mr. Karfu, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I am Lady Elendithas Day of Thousand Spires.”

“Lady?” Karfu eyed Norros. “Moving up in the world, I see.”

Danath and Nadarr introduced themselves.

“Always thought you a loner, Norros,” said Karfu. “After you learned everything I had to teach. Now you show up with friends. Friends are good. They keep you sane. But sometimes they make you dead.”

“Pretty sure I don’t need help coming up with inventive ways to get dead, Karfu. Look, we’ve been tracking this courier all day. We lost him a few hours ago, and now we’re grasping at straws. Do you know anything about a dwarf named Thevir?”

“Thevir? I’ve heard of him. Not too good at making friends that one. Until he made a dangerous one. Word on the street is that he’s in the employ of a new player, the Lupine Pact.”

“We’ve had a few run-ins with them ourselves.”

“So it seems has Thevir. Right before you came a source of mine was here. Said Thevir got snatched off a side street in the Cobbles. My guess is it was by this new friend of his.”

“That would explain why we can’t find him,” said Danath. “So what’s our next move?”

“Not much more we can do tonight,” said Norros. “Let’s get some sleep and crash the Duchess’s party tomorrow.”

“Sounds like fun,” said Elend.

“And on the way, let’s see if we can identify the stuff in Silvern’s box,” said Nadarr.

“You’re welcome to pull up a bit of sewer to sleep on,” said Karfu.

“Oh, it’s not that bad, Elend,” said Norros.

“I did say I wanted an adventure. I guess my first sewer sleep counts. I’m sure this will make it into a song.”

Sleeping in a sewer turned out to be just as bad as Elendithas thought, but she did manage to drop off for a few restive hours. They awoke the next morning, cramped and disheveled, bid farewell to Karfu, and headed back to the Cobbles.

“There,” said Norros, pointing to a storefront. “The Phoenix Wing, another shop like the Arcanery.”

“A competitor?” asked Nadarr.

“No, more like another branch of a central institution. That’s how the guilds work in Tornby. All arcane shops are under the authority of the Arcanists Guild. Hopefully, this one will have a less snooty clerk.”

They found an old Halfling just unlocking the door when they approached. “Helmen Pint, at your service. Welcome to the Phoenix Wing. What’s your pleasure?”

“We’re trying to identify some potions,” said Elend, beckoning to Nadarr. The Dragonborn produced the package from within the bag of holding, and the Halfling lifted the lid.

“Interesting. Interesting.” Pint removed a clear monocle from his eye and held up a red-tinted one hanging from his shirt. “Some of these liquids are far beyond my ken. Whatever their use, it must be for a powerful enchantment.”

“Yes, that’s what we thought,” said Elend. “But can you guess at any of them?”

Pint switched to a third monocle, this one tinted ice-blue. “Ah, ah. This is quicksilver infused with…with…liquid sunlight.”

“Liquid sunlight?” asked Danath.

“Oh, it’s not actually sunlight. It’s dew collected on Midsummer’s Day from certain mountaintops away near Ravenest. Very rare. Very expensive.” He swirled the contents of another flask. “And this is essence of siren. Siren sweat, basically. Harvesting this often has…shall we say, a shortening effect on one’s lifespan. Usually used in memory charms, as a way to influence thought. I have no idea why it would be used in the same enchantment as quicksilver and sunlight.”

“Thank you, Mr. Pint,” said Elendithas. “You’ve been most helpful. If we ever meet the head of your guild, we’ll give you a great review.”

“Oh, you mean Master Silvern?”

“Fenlis Silvern? He’s your guildmaster.”

“Yes, yes…but we don’t see him much. Usually just once a year at the annual meeting. Not much for crowds, that one.”

They left the Phoenix Wing and stepped back into the thoroughfare on the way to the Pinnacle. “Let’s get spruced up and head to the castle,” said Elend.

“You guys go,” said Danath. “I don’t want to set foot in the Pinnacle. I’ll head over to the Mouse and Cobbler. Give me the box. I’ll keep it safe while you’re doing whatever you’re going to do.”

“Suit yourself,” said Nadarr. “So Elend, I think I’ll be your bodyguard. Norros, you can be her plus one.”

“I am moving up in the world!”

“Don’t get any ideas,” said Elendithas.

A quick spa and shopping trip left them coiffed and clean. They made it into the Pinnacle without incident on the strength of Elend’s pedigree. A huge throng was gathered in the courtyard of Castle Esris. They joined the crowd and slowly worked their way closer to the dais. At the stroke of noon, a parade of dignitaries strode out onto the platform. Various functionaries gave prepared remarks, then the Duchess spoke of her deceased husband and her duty to fulfill his vision for Torniel, mingled with her own desires. Roaring applause followed her speech and acceptance of the scepter of Torniel. Finally, a pale, yet handsome man dressed immaculately mounted the podium. “On behalf of the Sularin League at Thousand Spires,” he began.

“Oh no,” said Elendithas, the color draining from her face.

“What? What’s wrong?” said Nadarr.

“It’s my father.” Elend dove behind Nadarr. “I don’t think he saw me. There are a lot of people here.”

“What’s wrong with your father being here?” asked Norros.

“If he sees me, he’ll make me come home.”

“We don’t want that now, do we. Come on, let’s see if we can find Silvern,” said Nadarr.

It seemed that the entire castle guard was at the festivities because they made it to the base of Glass Sea Tower without incident. Mounting the spiral staircase, they began to climb. Nadarr lost count of the steps somewhere after the four hundredth. Finally, they reached the top of the stairs and an unlocked door.

“Hold on,” said Elend. She closed her eyes for moment and hummed a haunting chromatic melody. “There’s some powerful magic in there. It’s overwhelming my senses. Be careful.”

Norros opened the door and slipped inside. No one appeared to be in the room. Standing near an open window and dominating the room was a work table full of flasks, burners, and tubing. They walked up to it and examined what looked like an elaborate chemistry experiment.

“Look, the quicksilver!”

The same silver-gold liquid was suspended in an upside down flask. Every few seconds a drop fell from the flask and hit a hot surface, where it immediately evaporated. The gas collected in a chamber between two thick lenses. The larger lens was pointed out the window. A conjured ball of light hovered next to the smaller lens.

“This must be Silvern’s enchantment,” said Elend. “I wonder what it does.”

“One way to find out,” said Norros.

Before Nadarr and Elend’s “No’s” reached their lips, Norros had pulled the smaller of the two lenses out of the setup. Then without warning a wave of psychic pain swept over them. Elend and Norros dropped to their knees, clutching the sides of their heads with their hands. It was all they could do not to faint.

Nadarr kept his feet, but only just. Shaking off the shrieking static in his mind, he looked out the window. Where the low hanging perpetually full moon had been now hovered a mammoth skyship. A single massive sphere of blue arcane energy held the bow aloft and a pair of spheres did the same to the stern. Otherwise, the vessel looked much like the Archon, except that it was designed to plow the air and not the sea.

Two miles away at the Mouse and Cobbler, Danath clawed himself back into his barstool and shook away the psychic pain that had intruded his reflective drink with Brunn. But he didn’t stay in the stool for long. He joined the rest of the patrons massed at the window. Looking up at the skyship, Danath’s mouth dropped open. “What is that?” he said.

Chapter 9: The Duchess’s Secret→

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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