–Lullaby, ch. 1–
In which Duchess Samara gives gifts and tasks the party with a new mission set on an island shrouded in superstition.
“Duchess Samara said the house is right next to the Fountainside Inn,” said Elendithas. It was two days since their fights with Calder and the werewolves, and they had spent them recovering in the castle’s infirmary. Kirra had been a frequent visitor, always coming to see Elend but then spending the whole time talking with Danath. Fully refreshed and free of cuts and curses, the companions traveled out of the Pinnacle, past the Eldasin Library, and along the park toward the fountain.
“It’s called ‘Red Door House,’ right?” said Norros. “I think I found it.” He pointed to a small building next to a large inn, both of which sported the same architecture. The two-story structure was stone below and wood above. The wood was painted white with curves of brown arching between dormer windows. The red front door opened onto a small, fully furnished parlor. The only other room on the first floor was the kitchen, which had a large hearth taking up the entire near wall. The chimney ran up the center of the house giving support to the structure and heat to all the rooms. Two exterior staircases led to a pair of cozy bedrooms each. The bedrooms were small but well-appointed, each with a bed, desk, and large trunk.
On the beds, the companions each found a note written in an elegant hand. Nadarr, Elend, and Norros also had parcels of varying size waiting for them. Nadarr began opening the parcel, then remembered his manners and read the letter first.
22 Longsun LY270
My dear Nadarr,
Thank you for your bravery and steadfastness in the recent ordeal concerning the skyship, etc. Despite your green scales, you are a stalwart ally and one I hope to be able to call upon to serve as the need arises. Your uprightness made me think of these curious boots that I think are just your size. Please accept them as a token of my esteem.
Lady Samara Esris
Knowing what was in the package, Nadarr tore away the paper to find a pair of sturdy boots, which he exchanged for his travel-worn ones right away. They didn’t fit at first, but after a few minutes some sort of magic had resized them to fit better than any shoes ever had.
In the meantime, Norros was reading his own message from the duchess.
22 Longsun LY270
To the impetuous Norros Arborshade,
Thank you for your quick thinking and ability to take charge in the recent ordeal concerning the skyship, etc. I am glad to see that the orphan seems to have found a family, albeit of a rather strange composition. Please understand that I do not single-handedly have the power to commission you into the service of my guard, and I apologize for any misunderstanding that occurred. That being said, please accept this ring of the pinnacle as a token of my esteem. My guards wear it, and I would be honored if you did too, though I expect your path will lead to much greater things than captaining soldiers here in Torniel-by-the-Sea.
Lady Samara Esris
Norros pulled the ring from the small parcel and held it up to the light. Three small gemstones, two blue and one yellow, adorned the platinum band. He slid it onto his finger and within minutes felt his physical form grow heartier.
Elendithas had two notes in her room, which read.
22 Longsun LY270
My darling Elendithas,
Thank you for coming to my aid in the recent ordeal concerning the skyship, etc. Despite your youth, you have a level head on your shoulders, which serves you well. I do not want to pry into your affairs, but I would encourage you to reach out to your father. I know what it’s like to lose a child; think what your parents must be going through. I wanted to give you a token of my esteem, but Kirra asked if she could in my stead. I’ll let her tell you in her own hand.
Lady Samara Esris
Just so we don’t lose touch again, here’s one of my pair of sending stones. We can use them to talk with each other whenever we please. What good fun! I’m off soon to the Equestrian, but I’ll be sure to tell you all about it! I’m so glad we reconnected! Bye!
Elendithas opened the parcel to find a smooth stone, painted with ornate runes, which shimmered when she moved the stone through the light. She set the stone on the desk, thought for a moment, then opened the desk to find paper and pen. Sitting down, she began writing a letter to her father.
Danath had no parcel waiting for him, but he found out why when he read the duchess’s note.
22 Longsun LY270
My Master Hunter,
Thank you for your courage and true aim in the recent ordeal concerning the skyship, etc. Despite the fact that my daughter fancies you, I find that I too hold you in high regard. Kirra is a silly girl and easily swayed by the whims of attraction, so please hold her affections with a light hand. When you mentioned the defenses on the skyship yesterday, I knew immediately how I could show my esteem. Bring the crystal you took from the skyship to the Opal Essence jeweler in the Cobbles and tell them I sent you. I think you’ll like what they’ll do for you. I will not be your future mother-in-law, no matter what my daughter says, but that will not keep me from hoping to see you again soon under happier circumstances.
Thank you again,
Lady Samara Esris
The four companions stowed their gear in their trunks and then met around the kitchen table. They shared their letters and showed each other the gifts the duchess had given them. “She is too kind,” said Elendithas. “First the use of this quaint little house, then a present!”
“Well, we did save her life,” said Norros. “And now that I’ve got this” – he pointed to the ring – “I expect I can go anywhere I want in Torniel, no questions asked. Better than gold, in my estimation.”
“I have to head to the a jeweler in the Cobbles to pick up my gift,” said Danath, “but before I do, there’s something I need to discuss with you all.” He pulled out the cipher-covered pieces of parchment they had taken from the skyship. “I cracked Calder’s code. And it’s not good.”
The first parchment was covered in a block of numbers.
And the second in the same code, but what seemed like a list.
“How could you possibly make sense out of that lot?” asked Nadarr, who instead of sitting was striding around the kitchen testing his new boots.
“Um,” said Danath. A sheepish grin played across his rapidly reddening face. “Kirra helped.”
“Kirra?” said Elendithas. “So that’s what you’ve been doing the last two days in the infirmary.”
“Yes,” Danath coughed. “That’s it. Turns out that Kirra recognized the number patterns from Calder’s old journals. She used to try to read them, but they were in code. It took her ages to figure out the cipher, but she did it. This was years ago, but he’s still using the same one. She wrote it out for me.”
“I do not need to see the math,” said Nadarr. “Just tell me what it says.”
“The list is a ‘Potion of Undeath.’ It seems awfully complicated to make. I don’t even know what some of these ingredients are. ‘Rexavydar aqueous humor, animated skeleton bone marrow, eternal lotus, bitterroot, blood of a dead family member.’ What in the name of all that is sunny and bright is ‘aqueous humor’?”
Norros spoke up: “It’s the squishy part of your eyeball.” The others gave him astonished looks. “Hey, I read.” He knocked his head. “This isn’t just a hatrack, my friends.”
“What’s the other parchment say?” asked Nadarr.
“This is the one that worries me.” Danath read aloud:
Preparations are nearly complete for my takeover of Torniel. My wolves are in position at the Pinnacle. Silvern’s enchantment is working better than expected. It even makes my dire wolves more bloodthirsty. Today I finished the potion of undeath – now, not even physical death can stop me. I barely made it off Lullaby with my life.
“Seems like we thwarted his plans good and proper,” said Nadarr. “We took out the werewolves in the duchess’s guard and the second moon is gone. And the Potion of Undeath didn’t help Calder much. What’s left to do?”
“Hold on a tick. What was he doing on Lullaby?” said Norros. “No one goes to Lullaby.”
“Exactly,” said Danath. “I’m not even from Torniel, but I’ve heard the legend of the abandoned island.”
“Well, I haven’t,” said Nadarr. “Care to explain?”
“I don’t think I can do it justice,” said Norros. “I want to stop by the library anyway to see Lorna. I’ll pick up something there that will explain it properly. Anyone want to tag along?”
“I need to post a letter. I’ll go with you,” said Elendithas.
“Want to join me at this Opal Essence jeweler’s, Nadarr?” asked Danath.
“I need to do some shopping, yes,” said the Dragonborn.
The companions split into pairs. Danath and Norros went armor shopping on their way to Opal Essence. Once there, the jeweler took the crystal from Danath, wound wire around it, and affixed it to a chain. “Frost crystal,” said the jeweler. “Very potent. Touch it before you loose an arrow, and I think you’ll like the effect.”
Danath slipped the chain over his neck and held the crystal for a moment with his right hand. Frost appeared on his fingertips, but they did not feel cold. “Can’t wait to try it out. Thank you!”
In the meantime, Norros and Elendithas entered the Eldasin Library and found Lorna Pell at the desk, twirling her hair around a pen absent-mindedly as she read. She looked up when Norros addressed her. “Hi Lorna, I just wanted to come and thank you for your help a few days ago. You were right all along about the moons.”
“I kept quiet just like you said.” Lorna stood up and pushed her glasses up her nose. “But I wish I could tell people what I had been researching. ‘The Effects of Phantom Moons on Creatures and Tides, by Lorna Pell.’ Catchy title, don’t you think?”
“Maybe someday,” said Norros. “Look, I might be leaving again soon, and I just wanted to say goodbye in case I don’t see you.”
“So soon? You never left Tornby before a few weeks ago, and now a second time within the month? I shall miss you.”
“And I you.” Norros bent down and kissed her hand.
Elendithas coughed. “Yes, well, Lorna, we’re also here to ask your help with something. What can you tell us about the legend of Lullaby?”
Lorna scowled at Elend and her normally bubbly nature grew heavy with acerbity. “It’s an island south of Hourglass. There are no people on it.” She turned back to Norros, “Now, you were saying?”
“I, uh, yes, Elend’s right. We’re wondering if you can dig up an article or something about the legend.”
Lorna scowled again when he said Elend’s name. “Oh, all right, give me a few minutes.”
She stalked off, only to return five minutes later with a pamphlet, which she handed to Norros. “Thanks, Lorna. I’ll see you again soon.”
When the four companions were once again together in the Red Door House, Elendithas read the pamphlet aloud.
“The Legend of Lullaby”
In League Year 154, the citizens of South Hourglass vanished, leaving their dinners uneaten at the table. Over seven hundred people – men, women, and children – disappeared without knocking over a single chair. Their pets and livestock vanished, too. Theories abound as to how this happened, but none has ever been substantiated with evidence.
With the people of South Hourglass gone, the town of Abundance complete with its lush farmland stood abandoned. Others soon settled in the eerily empty town, but none stayed long. The free houses and fertile earth could not compete with the psychological toll of simply inhabiting the island. Erstwhile settlers reported a pernicious feeling of dread. They felt like they were being watched, their sleep was fitful, and they started to go mad. Even in their dreams, they saw a great eye watching them.
Within a decade from the original disappearance, a legend grew of something sleeping beneath the island – something powerful and dreadful that had sent the people of South Hourglass to another plane of existence so as not to be disturbed during its long hibernation. People took to calling South Hourglass by the name of “Lullaby”; if there were a creature asleep there, the one thing people agreed is that they did not want it to wake up.
In LY162, the Pinnacle issued a quarantine order, forbidding people from traveling to the newly christened “Lullaby.” But the order was unnecessary. The Legend of Lullaby was enough to dissuade even the most foolhardy of adventurers.
“Calder didn’t strike me as especially foolhardy,” Elend concluded as she set the pamphlet on the table. “He went to Lullaby for a reason, and he says he almost died there.”
“The island must not be deserted then,” said Nadarr. “We should probably tell the duchess about this.”
“What are we waiting for?” said Danath. “Let’s go right now.”
“You just want to see Kirra again,” said Elendithas, and she made a series of smooching sounds.
As evening approached, the four companions returned to the Pinnacle. Norros flashed his ring to gain entrance, and he took perhaps more relish in the experience than was entirely necessary. They found Samara Esris in the throne room, bent over a desk with an old dwarf in plate armor.
“We have news, duchess,” said Nadarr. “And not of the pleasant variety.” The paladin related what they had learned from Calder’s cipher.
“Indeed, this is troubling,” said Samara. “Look at this missive from Cliffwatch.” She picked up a piece of parchment from the desk and handed it to Nadarr.
DATE: 9 Longsun, LY270
TO: Duchess Samara Esris and General Grem Axehaft [EYES ONLY]
FROM: Major Glissa Gabirel, Officer-in-Charge, Cliffwatch Garrison
RE: Movement on Lullaby
Perhaps my distaste for this babysitting assignment was premature. Movement on Lullaby in recent days. Humanoid. Sticking to forest, near the treeline east of the farmland. No movement in Abundance as of yet. Request permission for quarantine suspension in order to investigate personally.
At moment, only myself and four members of my staff are aware of situation. Recommend discretion, or else general panic might ensue. I do not believe the legend of Lullaby. But most do not share my estimation of such campfire stories.
Awaiting your orders.
Maj. G. Gabirel
Maj. G.G. / Lt. f.g.
“We received this report nearly two weeks ago, but with my seating ceremony coming up and with the unpleasantness regarding the moons, I did not give it the attention it deserves.”
“Maybe it was” – Elend broke off before she said Calder’s name – “you-know-who making the movement they say they saw.”
“It is all right, Lady Day,” said Samara. “General Axehaft is the leader of Torniel’s military and shares my utmost confidence.”
The general gave a curt nod.
“Maybe it was Calder,” said Elend plainly.
“Even so,” said the duchess. “What was he doing there and why does he write that he nearly died on a supposedly deserted island?”
“It doesn’t add up, that’s for sure,” said the general. “But what can we do? Sending troops to the island will stir up mass hysteria. People are terrified of Lullaby.”
“I have an idea,” said the duchess, smiling. “What we need is a quiet investigation by a ragtag, yet reliable team. You, my friends, are perfect for the job.”
“I was afraid you’d say that,” said Norros. “Can we at least borrow some horses to make the trip to Cliffwatch a little faster?”
“I’ll do you one better,” said Samara, smiling even more broadly now. “Why don’t you take Moonrise?”
Lullaby, Ch. 2 “Visions of Death” Coming Soon!
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