Osbert, the majordomo at the Sapphire Fang, informs you all first thing upon waking that a Nightwatcher has been inquiring as to your whereabouts this morning. The staff feigned ignorance, of course, and it should come as no surprise that your host Lady Averon is displeased. You are advised to start being more discreet or perhaps you will need to seek other arrangements.
Halfway through a piece of toast, she says quietly, “I want to tell you about Duriguin now. Anathema to creation, sower of strife…” After a long and painfully awkward pause, she adds, “….um. That is, if you… want to hear it?”
Daisy, by providence, is narrowly saved by a mouthful of sausage and potato pancakes from saying something abrupt and undiplomatic along the lines of “Over breakfast??” or “Don’t we have enough bad guys to deal with without adding weird evil Gods to our problems?” By the time she chokes her food down via a heroic gulp, followed by some over-watered ale, she’s thought better of it and offers a mostly inviting grunt of inquiry.
Dovienya looks up from mixing elixirs. “Of course. I mean clearly I want to know what you know. Otherwise I wouldn’t be reading your journal, would I?” He returns to mixing his elixirs, totally oblivious to the fact that he just brought up an issue Nim conspicuously avoided.
Nim tilts her head to one side, smiling at Dov and at Daisy in turn. “Right, of course. And since we’re friends, perhaps you have some writings I could read, too.” Is she joking? Hard to tell if she’s joking. “But I only wanted to… right, yes, explain, explain about the Sower, it… he? Yes,” she fumbles. “Duriguin is what… I had many visions about him, or leading to him, I just didn’t understand at the time, I didn’t see. He takes different forms, he… is a black stag with four followers in white. I saw it in the forest, before Green Mags…” she shakes her head, remembering something deeply unpleasant. “He is also the Sower, hence the name Duriguin — and that tomb place, that… horrible thing filled with skeletons of the barbarian Queen? That’s one of his fields. It’s hard to explain when I’m… talking. Sorry.” She nearly lets her long hair dip into her pancakes. “Anyway. All of it is tied together through him, somehow, everything is connected… the reason I saw, and I just knew, that we ought not swear ourselves to anyone, not the Sovereigns or the King or whoever… that is how he does it. Somehow he takes them, and they do his evil for him.”
“We should be careful now. He may know… no, he does know, we’ve trampled on his fields,” she whispers, staring at her plate. After another long, strange pause, she adds softly, “…these are good pancakes.”
At Nim’s request for something to read Dovienya reaches into his bag for his book on The Principles of Mechanistic Flight, but as she speaks the book falls forgotten from his hand. By the time she finishes his face has drained of color. “He’s called the Sower?”
Dovineya glances around to make sure no one is close enough to overhear, but even still he lowers his voice. “When we were in the tomb I… died. I had a… vision, a dream? The skeletons spoke to me. They told me to swear my loyalty to the Sower. And then something… touched my mind. It tried to destroy everything that made me me, to turn me into something like the skeletons. It was going to. There was nothing I could do to stop it. But you brought me back. You saved me.”
Nim’s fork has only made half its journey to her mouth where it is now frozen as she stares at Dov openly. “You…. you heard it too? Oh no, oh I wish you had told me sooner. And not only for the part where I thought everyone else thought I was crazy, that too, but…” she chews on her bottom lip, looking worried. “He knows you’re there too, he saw you. The hunter… oh, I have to think, I have to…” she pauses mid tapping-herself-on-the-skull to tilt her head curiously, and this time her long hair does dip into her pancakes. “I saved you? I’m… not sure how, though, I didn’t see that. I see warnings and the stars are urging us forward to stop him, but I don’t see enough to understand it all.”
“Well I see and understand even less than you do,” says Dov. “So I don’t think we’re going to be able to figure this out with just the two of us. There are some people in the city who might know more about this than we do. If we can get them to help us that is. Okay, here’s the plan. I’m going to go out today and try to find out some more information. You two stay here, stay out of sight, and try to stay out of trouble.”
Nim’s fork slips from her hand and goes rolling off several feet towards the kitchens. “What? Are you sure you ought to go by yourself, that’s… it knows we’re here,” she whispers. “And we don’t know who is… helping it.” She frowns sadly down at her plate. “So if you must run off alone, maybe it is you who needs to avoid trouble most of all.”
“Me? I’m always careful. Ancient evils we can handle, it’s things like the two of you running into a guard barracks on some harebrained rescue scheme that has me worried.” And with that Dovienya gets up from the table and heads up to his room.
An awkward pause follows Dov’s departure. Daisy, her food cooled and congealing on her plate, pushes back from the table and rises, blonde curls falling across her face and obscuring her eyes. She takes in a breath as if to say…something, but lets it out with a huff and walks from the room in the opposite direction. Ambrosius hesitates, eying the abandoned sausages from under a mop of white fur, before heaving a canine sigh and padding after his mistress.
Now, discretion is not Daisy’s middle name, and she makes a direct beeline for the Fang’s front door. She simply forgot to take heed of Osbert’s directive. Walking through the crowded city, it’s not long before she starts to sense someone following her.
In between browsing weapon shops, Daisy happens to spot the culprit from afar pointing a beeping metal wand at her. Her pursuer looks like a diminutive street urchin, a ragamuffin – only not a child. The woman is of indeterminable race (half-goblin?) with crazy unkempt hair, luminous orange eyes, big pointed ears and slightly sharp teeth. She’s got enough pouches and vials and faded runes on her tattered clothing (i.e. icky magicky stuff) to make Daisy uncomfortable.
Seeing that she’s been discovered, the woman tucks the wand away and walks over to cheerily introduce herself. Her name is Midribin (or “Midriff” if you’re Daisy and don’t remember names well), and she offers to buy Daisy a drink at a nearby tavern where the two can talk more privately. Midribin explains she’s a renowned “spellthief” (whatever that is) and a loyal member of the Mystic Order of the Wick and the Flame. You’ve already met some of her other buddies in the Wick: Ruthorian and Pobody.
The Wick, Midri explains, are good-aligned magic-users hoping to stop evil-aligned magic-users. They’re Paradon’s magical watch-dogs, in other words. The Seven Sovereigns, being the most evil and magical of organizations in the kingdom are, ipso facto, exactly the sort of thing the dog-that-is-Wick is mostly watching. As the Unsworn have been vouched for by her buds, Midribin hopes to be your friend as well. She is filled with questions for Daisy – how did you all end up staying at the Sapphire Fang? And under the auspices of the Sovereigns? Are you in their good graces? Do you have any idea who your new benefactors are? Daisy gets dizzy.
Daisy learns from Midribin (though the names are hard to keep track of) that the founder and leader of the Wick, Primwizard Artivole, has been missing for a couple of years after he got in a crazy epic wizard duel with his evil arch-enemy Gleaming, a member of the Seven Sovereigns. The story goes both DIED by killing one another epically. But Midribin says she knows a secret – that Artivole is in fact not dead (the Wick have their ways). However, there’s been no word from him since the duel. She can’t help but wonder if that means Gleaming is alive too, but, as near as she can tell, the other remaining six Sovereigns believe he’s dead along with everyone else. They’re recruiting a seventh member to replace him, something they wouldn’t do if they thought Gleaming was still around.
The spellthief is eager to hear any information the Unsworn can get about the Sovereigns and hopes you’ll assist the Wick in their efforts to stop their evil plans. She instructs Daisy on how to reach her at the inn called the Whispering Owl if they ever need her again.
Daisy heads back to the Fang after her meet-and-greet with Midribin and along the way suddenly comes face-to-face with the eye-patched half-orc Nightwatcher who could be played by Idris Elba in my dream casting (I mean, the role’s his if he wants it). The previous night he had recognized Dovienya but had told him to steer clear of his investigation. Now he has apparently changed his tune for some reason. He asks Daisy to send word to Dov that he now wants his help. “I need a certain item you picked up last night. Please share it with me so I can find the ones that did this.” Or words to that effect. I’m sure Idris would totally sell it.
Ruffled by all the random weirdo people stepping out to accost her as she’s just innocently trying to window shop for weapons, Daisy heads back to the Fang to report to her friends all that she’s learned, or at least half-remembered. Hey, if some of the names are mixed up or she’s forgotten some of the details, maybe people in the streets should pick someone else to accost with elaborate info dumps! ;P
Meanwhile, a disguised Dovienya departs the Fang that morning and heads out to hit the Slopes. It feels good for him to be back in the city, investigating. This is totally his element. His jam. The first order of business is to see if the Vordritists can help. They’re a group of scholars and sages Dov knows about that are notoriously guarded and greedy. Only the city’s richest can usually afford their services as they hoard their knowledge like gold. Rumor has it they need all the money just to pay the Eye-in-the-Hole (city’s thieves’ guild) not to steal from them and to provide extra protection.
Dov asks around, hoping to find a weak point – perhaps the supernatural thieves (not the Eye-in-the-Hole, but some mysterious third party that is frustrating everyone, including the Sovereigns) have also stolen from the Vordritists? But there’s no indication it’s happened. Of course, the scholars may not want word to get around they can’t keep control of their secret lore, so haven’t told anyone about any thefts.
Finally, after four hours of digging, Dov discovers something of a lead: a scribe in the service of the scholars calling himself the Whistler is willing to access the archive, do a little reference work on the side, for a mere 100 gp a question. Dov manages to track down how to communicate with this Whistler, and decides to bring this possible resource back to his friends.
With the rest of the time left for his disguise, Dov looks into Racwulf. This is the petty thief who after being recruited by the actual murderer(s) after Dov turned down the offer, was later found murdered himself. It seems clear from his investigation that the poor kid, who from all reports wasn’t half-bad a person, became an unfortunate victim of the whole affair. The Eye-in-the-Hole claims no responsibility for his death. Presumably, it was the paladin’s murderers themselves closing up a loose end, and he was just a throw-away tool in whatever their plot was. A fate that Brega helped save Dovienya himself from.
As he moves about the city, Dov can’t help but hear a couple of other things of note:
1) The whole city is abuzz about “the Star People”. A group of six civilized obsidian ape-men – the likes of which have never been seen before – have recently arrived in Farglad. They call themselves Luthans and speak Common reasonably well. They say they immigrated from some other plane (“star”) and were led to Paradon by the goddess Calydo. They’re the newest city-wide sensation and people are eager for a chance to see them, but they aren’t making public appearances. The popular playwright Gotwinus is said to be busy at work planning his next play about them.
2) Good news regarding the war in Qaulic: Rumor has it there’s an additional enemy to the lizardmen, on that is attacking them from the other side and weakening their defenses. The long-awaited victory for Paradon over the lizardmen may be at hand.
Reunited back at the Fang, the Unsworn debrief over the day’s events. Nim, who spent an uneventful day purchasing some normal Paradonian clothes, reveals a riddle from her vision that she thinks refers to Farglad:
find fairweather, friend of the foundling
stepped off the path, broke her circle surrounding
forsook the trees, blackened her hem green-and-white
hides now in the shade of the towers of light
her memory shames her, her knowledge forbidden
the tree of the dead – sacred, buried, and hidden
i bid you to go and carve out a splinter
then pierce through the heart of each seedling to hinder
The riddle urges Nim to find the “tree of the dead” and carve out a splinter from it to use on a “seedling” in order to hinder something.
From the riddle, you figure out that a woman possibly named Fairweather has the forbidden knowledge of where the tree of the dead is. The words “circle” and a “hem of green-and-white” immediately bring to mind druids. Given that she “stepped off the path”, “forsook the trees” and “blackened her hem”, she is likely not a druid any more.
A subsequent vision revealed to Nim that there literally exists a “Tree of the Dead” out there, and that it is how Duriguin entered the world. The Tree is a massive thing, now dead, that grew upside-down, underground, with its roots near the surface and its top branches burrowing deep, deep within the earth. According to the vision, the surface roots are no longer protected by “guardians”, and their numbers have been “thinned by ignorance and hatred, oppressed by the very ones they seek to protect.” Meanwhile, at the branches, mysterious wicked “caretakers” are said to be reviving the Tree via necromancy and making it grow fruit. You have no idea who the caretakers are. Regarding the guardians, on the other hand, you may be able to wager a guess.
You also have no idea who Fairweather is, nor what “friend of the foundling” means. However, the riddle states she is currently hiding in the “shade of the towers of light”, and upon arriving in Farglad, you have seen the city’s many light-towers, aka “towers of light”. Even the heraldry of Farglad depicts them. Could Fairweather be hiding in Farglad? If you can find her, she can lead you to the Tree of the Dead, where you can carve out a splinter as the vision bids you to do.
Nim and Dov decide to go out that evening and chat with Midribin at the Whispering Owl. They share the riddle with her, and using her help, deduce that Fairweather may be involved with the Eye-in-the-Hole in some capacity. Midribin offers to find the fallen druid hiding in the thieves’ guild’s midst. She points out that Daisy’s mechanical cricket from Pobody’s shop is secretly a tracking device. It’s how the spellthief was able to track her in the city. It might be useful if the Unsworn ever needs back up (Midri would know where she was), but might prove a dangerous thing to possess if it falls into the Sovereign’s hands.
Meanwhile, Dov is unwilling to risk going out into the city without a disguise so tries to collect information from the staff inside the Fang. It’s not terribly fruitful: more fawning over the Star People.
When his friends return, he brings them up in conversation, plus the rumors of the war. He mentions the Star People are called Luthans, which rings a bell for Nim. She’s been having dreams at night in which she trains a friend of hers (another oracle that lived in ancient times – long story) in how to wield a starknife, a bizarre weapon not known in this world. Nim knows it comes from a star called Lutha. Despite really wanting a starknife of her own, she decides bugging the Star People about it had better wait until other more pressing matters are addressed.
Speaking of those other pressing matters, the Unsworn spend the rest of the evening discussing how they best want to proceed. Dov suggests they focus on the supernatural thieves. Figuring out who they are will not only help Dov clear his name (since they seem to be the same culprits who framed him for the paladin’s murder), but also make the Seven Sovereigns happy. And perhaps their grateful hosts will reveal more about their sinister sovereignanigans.
To Be Continued…