A day later after renting the largest room in the top floor of a seaside saloon called the Leaping Fish, its placard displayed a blue fish leaping from an ale keg our heroes were in the tap room enjoying several rounds of ale and platters of roasted fish and steamed vegetables. They were a little miffed after spending a fair sum buying carry licenses for each weapon they were carrying save for 1 dagger each, taxes equal to 10% the value of the goods they were carrying and intent on selling and a gate toll. They were also warned by the gate guards that the shaman would have to purchase a Wizard’s License from the Pillars if he was thinking about doing anything “magical”. The place was patronized mostly by brawny, sunburnt, pipe-smoking sailors from along the Ivoran coast as well as hairy similar appearing sailors, probably pirates, from the Hill-Lands and dark-skinned Creschans even a few naga from the far southern Serpent Coast. The dragon-slayers noticed when a group of southron Ivoran brothers, all identical, wearing green-dragon hide armor, bronze bracers, bronze open helms with a flying dragon crest set on the scalp walked in. They were handsome young men with long black gleaming hair and blue eyes, Bers was smitten but they weren’t interested in her the bar-maid on the other hand was a different story. They were a bit snobbish and tight-lipped but were somewhat friendly and talked with the group especially when our heroes paid for the drinks and food. They were non-guilded dragon-slayers and archers from the city-state of Xuun far to the south in Gorloc. The next day they set out to explore the city.
Bers wanted to see if she could find out if Sir Chinsalis had survived the winter at Veringer’s Field (see Pt. 14) so she walked to the cathedral. Vorwulf wanted to purchase some potions as well as sell a few of those he was carrying Grom decided to follow him as he was at a loss as what to do in a city. Bers donned the wooden chalice medallion Sir Chinsalis had given her upon her and Dead-Eye’s “conversion” to the Hyvalian faith (see Pt.10).
She wended her way along the twisting streets which became more twisted and shorter as they approached the great rock bluff at the foot of which stood the impressive cathedral of Chago. She went up the steps into the open archways of the front entrance the place was sunlit by skylights and brightly painted with massive murals, great works of art, on all of the walls and ceilings. Her nose was almost overwhelmed by the strong scents coming from piles of smoldering incense mixing with the perfumes worn by the wealthy and body odors of the beggars whom loitered within. There were performers, jugglers mostly, performing for coin which were plinked into shabby earthen plates at their feet. There were tables set up by the entrance where scribes and lawyers were plying their trades. She observed the collection of brightly colored banners among the streamers hanging from the archways one of which she recognized as that which the Templars led by Han-Moro and another which the knights had flown back at Veringer’s Field. The Templars were called the Order of the Rose and their arms were a black escutcheon on a white field bearing a red rose with a thorny green stem. The knights’ heraldry was a golden chalice with a gold sword conceivably being thrust into it contained in an escutcheon of powder blue on a black field. She approached a young priest and asked after Sir Chinsalis. She was told he was indeed alive but was absent from the city on a mission to recapture an escaped criminal named Xiahmnecha which she took to mean Siamnecca pronounced with an Ivoran tongue. She also found out that the druids had a center of power in the Strignor Lagoon almost directly north 10-miles and tensions were high.
Vorwulf found himself in a small shop where dim beams of light shone through the glass windows on both sides of the door. Drying herbs and plants hung from the rafters providing a strange and cloying spicy scent which pervaded the small cramped space. Behind the counter lining the shelves were dozens of jars and some vials of various oils and extracts. The herbalist was an Ivoran named Wezra, really Weishi in the Ivoran tongue, whom was friendly enough. He was dressed in shabby but clean clothes his peppered grey hair was shoulder length and wiry appearing somewhat unkempt. Vorwulf found out that business in the city was completely controlled by the multiple guilds and he would have to sell any magic items to the mages’ guild called the Pillars of Vision and the potions to an alchemist guild approved alchemist. Upon Vorwulf letting him know about the dragon-bone and hide possibly for sale he directed to the Blackwing Dragon-Slayers guild house at the foot of the King’s Edifice, the other large stone formation on which the royal manor was built where the Colonial Regent lived as this city was still loyal to the Hyvalian Emperor.
Wezra (in a heavy Ivoran accent): “Ya know, you could sell some of yer stuff unofficially.” He tapped his nose and winked. “I know a guy in the not-so-good part a’ town.”
Vorwulf: “Hmm. Yeah I guess so and where’s the best place to stay if we don’t wanna be bothered?”
Grom: “Hey, hey. Where can I buy a chicken?” Cris scowled at Gil.
Wezra directed the shaman to the livery and told Vorwulf that the same guy could put him up in a place that no one will bother them at. The man was a Westlander ex-dragon-slayer named or rather his “street name” was Stumpy and he could be found sitting at the café in front of the apartment building he owned. It was a white-washed four story place found in the “bad” part of the city, the poor part right off of the central market plaza. They made a note of their itinerary in their minds, they would see Stumpy first then on to an alchemist in the marketplace then after reuniting with Bers they would go to the Blackwings and then the mage guild. They would also try to pick up on any rumors or tell of dragons or trolls and such while running their errands.
They went to the livery and bought some chickens before returning to the Leaping Fish. The shaman was fascinated by a captive dragonsaurus which was obviously unhealthy and a small lizard called a Dragon-Lizard by the proprietor. It had six legs and its scales were of an earthy red-brown color fading to a greenish-black at the nose horn and along the bumps of the crocodilian skin. He was told these are highly sought after pets but decided against it as Vorwulf didn’t hold a high opinion of it so he bought a pick instead.
Later while eating at the Leaping Fish Bers pulled a stool up to their table followed by a tall nearly 7ft high amazon named Persis, her newly accepted protégé. Vorwulf and Grom shrugged their shoulders. Draznor was elsewhere sent to check the wagons at the carriage house where they rented space and paid for security. Vor and Grom had shared the rumors they had gathered of a red dragon terrorizing caravans traveling along the shoreline of the Firth of Woe in Northmarch far to the north and Bers was updated on all of the other business over a round of ale. They also heard of a giant two-headed troll prowling the beaches near some Cliffside ruins about 10-miles up the coast. Soon after they departed the saloon leaving a message for Draznor letting him know where they went with the barkeep. They met with Stumpy and wound up renting the top 2 floors of his building and had Stumpy send a runner to relay the message to Draznor to move their stuff to their new digs. Stumpy was a short very fat man with dirty stringy grey hair and a greying black moustache. His chin was studded with grey, white and black stubble. He was wearing a stained soft leather tunic and breeches with a faded red soft leather knee-high boot on his one leg. His crutch was finely carved and lacquered blue-black which he kept under his one-arm, the left one, when he stood. They sold him a few things which were identified as mundane (non-magical) and he was happy with the deal as they let go of very valuable objects for around 10% of the actual value less in a few cases.
Stumpy (as they left for the Blackwings guild house in a slight Ivoran accent): “If you guys need anyting, anyting! Jes ask I can get it for you!”
About a half an hour later they were sitting in a cool meeting room with smooth plastered walls and a hanging chandelier which was providing the light as the chamber was windowless. They were visibly exited to be inside of the Blackwing guild house at a large oblong table of polished redwood inlaid with mother of pearl. On the wall behind them there was a banner with the arms of the Hyvalian church on it bearing a golden chalice radiating orange and white beams which filled the field. Behind the guildsmen who sat opposite to the adventurers at the table there hung a banner with the symbol of the Blackwings against a split field of sea-blue and forest green. Douamo the guild master sat at the center of the guild side, next to him Trogon his apparent second and guild steward, with a clerk on either side of them. Draznor drug a sack of dragon-bone and a roll of dragon-hide he had fetched from the wagon which they had brought along and began laying the pieces on the table for the inspection of the guild. Persis was outside guarding the wagons while they sat in the guild carriage house. They also sent him back out to bring in the skulls which they had kept from the wyvern of Black Brow, the green dragon of the Cleft-Rills and Sawback. The Blackwing guild master was a broad muscular man of Ivoran descent but tanned and sun-hardened. He was wearing an eye-patch over his left eye and had large visible scars on his arms, face and neck. His studded soft leather shirt was open at the collar exposing the tattoo on his chest of the guild brand. They were impressed with the skull specimens and were sorry to hear about the loss of their men in Hirok-Nor and the murder of their people in Merdna where they had hoped to establish another guild house. Vorwulf let them know that they wanted to petition for membership and hopefully help them start a guild house in Hirok-Nor. In response Douamo asked for a steep entry fee which the adventurers easily paid right there. Douamo told them they were known to them via the last message that was relayed by their messengers of dragon-slayers from the Cleft-Rills that were plying their trade in Hirok-Nor before we lost contact (remember the messenger that galloped up in part 20, he was riding a magically disguised six-legged sleipnir and had a short conversation with the adventurers and followed the party to the lair and from there he left to relay the info).
They then asked if they could pay guild dues and when our heroes said they could pay a year in advance they were given the good news that they were now members. They were to sign or make their marks in the guild ledger and would have the run of the guild house save certain chambers and of course the vaults were off limits. There was a library, Vorwulf was literate and Bers had since learned to read, which contained the guild’s treasure the Tome of Dragonslaying which was housed in a locked side-chamber which they would have to be overseen by Babilla a guild alderman in charge of the book and whom was charged with the key to the chamber. They were invited to stay in the spare quarters for their stay in the city as they were now obligated to leave for Hirok-Nor by the next year. When they asked him where the mages’ guild was as they had some magic items for sale Douamo invited them to stay and offered to send a runner as the Blackwings had to offer the dragon-bone first to the Pillars anyway.
Douamo: “Now, let’s sit down to some spiced wine while we wait.”
Grom: “Oh yeah, they’ll sell me a Wizard’s License right?”
Bers and Vorwulf turned and glared at him.
Grom: “Hey, just in case!”
While they waited Douamo let them in on some guild news and rumors. A shadow dragon prowled the Strogo Swamp 4-miles north of the city but was tolerated for now as he seemed to keep the marsh-trolls of Troll’s Marsh out of Lachmor just 3-miles or so west. However a rumored new power is rumored to be rising in the Troll’s Marsh but who or what is not yet known. He repeated the rumor about the red dragon which they had already heard. Also there were outlaw dragon-hunter outfits wandering into town with some frequency including a notorious group of poachers calling themselves the Green-Dragon Archers all of them identical brothers. Vorwulf and Bers shared what they knew of them when they realized to whom Douamo was referring. He told them to “keep an eye on those guys”. After an hour or so have expired according to the sands of the hour-glass the representatives of the mages guild had arrived and as the last mage entered the meeting room Bers and Vorwulf recognized him.
Cris and Jen simultaneously: “Xanto the wasp!” (see Pt. 31)
Xanto did not make eye contact with them trying not to acknowledge that he knew them by constantly rubbing his guild badge, a sad beat up and tarnished bronze affair as opposed to the silver badges, gold on the eldest, of the others. The mark of the Pillars of Vision mage guild were the oblong images of an eye with their corners set on a common axis lending the appearance of a flower placed on an octagon, normally blue but the badges were of varying metals based on rank, with a motto ribbon stating “nothing is unknown” along the bottom. The eyes of the petals on the badges were set with gems of multiple colors those on Xanto’s badge were missing. The mages bought up almost all of the magic items that the adventurers had brought and could offer custom magic items but only to the guild and as new recruits their guild budget was reserved for when they arrived in Hirok-Nor. Cris just looked at me when I told him that. The eldest mage offered to have Xanto show them the town and introduce them to the necessary guildsmen of which there were many as they were going to stay in the city for at least a year. They accepted.
He dutifully showed them around town until the evening and was constantly offering to show to hidden gambling joints and dens of iniquity which catered to varying tastes. When asked if he knew Stumpy he replied:
“Yeah I know the guy. He doesn’t like me much.”
Vorwulf: “Well I like that guy even more now!” He laughed out loud (both the character and Cris) and slapped the narrow mage on his back.
Bers: “Hey let’s throw a party! I wanna throw a party and invite all the guild guys! Could you [to Xanto] help with that?”
Xanto (a big toothy grin broke across his face): “Of course! I could hire the entertainment. Buy the food, booze and hire the cooks. Rent a hall. What’s the budget I have to work with? I’m a superior party-planner if I might say so myself!”
Bers: “Oh spare no expense!” She tossed him a fat purse pregnant with gold and platinum coins.
Xanto: “Yes ma’am! When?”
Bers: “At the end of the week!”
Cris (to Jenn): “Good move. Keeping that guy close is a good idea. We might be able to use him.”
Jenn: “Oh yeeaah!”
They retreated to Stumpy’s place for the next three days having ordered prostitutes, young gigolos, booze and food through the wasp of course. Xanto made appearances here and there afterwards asking for more money which Bers always gave him as well as delivering and taking their orders for whatever they wanted at the time. On the fourth day as they nursed hangovers at the Leaping Fish, Xanto found them and let them know that he had rented a hall and all the invitations for the party had been delivered. They checked the hall out and found it was a wood hall built with a floor plan similar to a Westlander hall with a stone oven at the center and was sectioned off by sliding doors which could be slid back and folded to open up the entire hall as a single continuous space. He said the entertainers and the minstrel were hired and he would introduce them on the afternoon of the party as the guests would begin arriving at dusk.
The day before the party the shaman fed his chickens and pig which he planned on taking to the party for some reason or another. While he was “socializing” a strange warrior dressed in skins with fur girt shoulders hailed to him from across the narrow steep street in front of Stumpy’s. Vorwulf and his protégé, Draznor, were performing some accounting of the group funds and going over the gear and goods on the wagons. Bers spent the day with her protégé, Persis, shopping and having a pair of expensive silk party gowns made which were … loud shall we say?
To Be Continued…