Friday, June 20, 2014

PBM: Chapter 2: Handle With Care: Part 9

Splitting the Party: Lyra's Story

GM
Lyra appears with a small popping noise of displaced air in the middle of the women’s dormitories beneath the temple of Tyr. She hears a muffled “My! People come and go so quickly here!” behind her, and turns to see a surprisingly young novice, or, on second glance, a halfling novice, seated at the table between Winona and Theymr, looking at a large legal tome. Theymr looks up from the book, appearing only slightly surprised, “Miss Lyra, welcome back.” She rises and walks around the table, “What is all this?” she gestures at the pile of paintings Lyra is holding.

Lyra
“My apologies, sisters. My companions are well, but I have dire news for both you and the council.” Lyra shifts the paintings in her arms. “And a few other errands while I’m at it.”

Lyra takes a deep breath, steeling herself for the account of the previous day. “We rescued a girl in the slums from rapers yesterday morning. The orcs were carrying these, apparently signs of favor from Mace. The swords are forged from an alloy native to Baator that gives it its green tint.” She gestures to the broadsword at her hip. “Secondly, we were attacked by undead in the night. One zombie, one skeleton, one wight. Despite the removal of its arms and head, the zombie spoke. ‘We are for you. We’ll be back’. I’ve not known zombies to be capable of speech, but it is most unsettling, as is what the lady Frantiska had to say of the graveyard itself. No signs of life, not even insects or graveworms. Upturned earth. A sense of pervasive evil, as if the entire grounds were plotting.”

Winona
Winona’s face lights up, “Baatorian iron!? Really?” She practically springs over the table, “May I see it?”

Lyra
“With the symbol of the Xvimlar on the guard.” Lyra carefully unsheathes the sword and, if there is enough room for it, places it on the table for inspection.

Winona
Winona adjusts her glasses and leans down to examine the blade closely. “You said you found more than one of these? I’ve never heard of so much of the stuff in one place….though, I guess you did mention finding a gate to Baator in the slums.” Her arms twitch slightly, as if she is trying to restrain herself from clapping. “You always find the most interesting things,” she pauses, “Well, interesting and also quite frightening for the people of this city.”

She lifts the blade and looks at it again. “Sister Theymr, please inform the Bishop that Rye and I are going to have to engage in some field work.” She hands the sword back to Lyra. “You’ve found more signs of fiendish activity in the area in two days than I have in all the months I’ve been here, Lyra. Let me run to the armory and get my things, then Sister Rye and I are coming with you…”

She turns to the short novice, “Ready Rye?” The halfling’s eyes widen and her face goes start white.

Lyra
“Coming with me? I can tell you where we’d found them, but I hadn’t intended to return there. Of the orcs in the warehouse next to the fortune teller’s stall in the slum market, three had these green-bladed swords. I have one, Donovan and Hrud the others.”

GM
Sister Theymr moves closer to Winona, “While investigation of diabolical influence is your vocation, and the Bishop has offered you much freedom in that area, I am the mistress of novices and I do not believe Sister Ryesha is ready for the the kind of encounters you are implying.” The old woman’s otherwise kindly face looks quite stern as she says this. Ryesha, for her part, withdraws a little, her tiny frame allowing her to easily hide on the other side of the table, just her eyes and ears peaking up over the edge, looking very much like a hare peaking out of a tuft of grass to watch for predators.

Winona
Winona splutters slightly, then smiles, “Sister Theymr, I am entirely within my rights to request an aid for my fieldwork and I can think of no sister better to take along than our little bunnykins here. Her skills will be particularly useful, and she needs some real-world experience, and both Brother Rant and I will be there to watch out for her.” She turns as if that is the final word on the matter. "Lyra dear, we don’t have to go back to where you found the things. The fact that you’ve stumbled upon all of this, apparently by accident, and keep coming back to us can’t be a coincidence. Tyr has lead you to me to guide me to his work. Even that thing you claim the zombie said “We are for you. We’ll be back.” Clearly whatever demonic forces at work in this area are seeking you out Dearie, and I need to be there to stop them."

She pushes her glasses back up her nose and heads out into the hall, “I need to go get my things and we’ll meet you by the main doors. Come on Rye, it’s time to go have some fun!”

Lyra
Lyra carefully sheathes the sword once more. “While her enthusiasm is appreciated, I’m not sure she realizes that I will be rejoining my companions on their way to Melvaunt. Once again, I apologize for the disturbance, Sister Theymr. Aside from some mud and bruises, Brother Rant is well. He was very brave against the undead, and we are glad to have him accompanying us.”

GM
Sister Theymr watches Winona walk out, “Well Ryesha, it seems that you have your first mission, however unorthodox it’s assignment. Please remind Winona that her ability to hold you to sisterly service is limited to two weeks, after which time we will need you back here to resume your studies.” The halfling girl gives a small, almost frightened squeak, hitches up the hem of her robes, and runs after Winona. “It is no disturbance, Miss Lyra, Winona knows her mandate from Bishop Braccio well. Please make sure the Council and the Bishop are acquainted with your findings. Also, while you appearance here today is fine, Vicar General Walleran has informed us that, with the closing of the harbor, we are to limit our hospitality to those in a state of legitimate suffering or who are here on business of the faith in the future.” She bows, “May Tyr watch over your travels,” and returns to her reading.

Lyra
Lyra carefully picks up her stack of paintings again. “Do I need to request an audience with the Bishop, or simply pass on an account of what we have uncovered?”

GM
“The Bishop sits on the Council,” Sister Theymr says. “If you wish to speak with them, you should petition the clerk.”

Lyra
“Thank you, Sister Theymr.” Lyra decided it would be best if she found a buyer for the paintings before waiting for the council to deign to become available.

Lyra proceeds upstairs to wait on Sister Winona and Sister Ryesha, so she could at least inform them that she was heading to the temple of Sune. As she headed to the main doors to the temple, she looked around for any sign of the sister from Half-a-Loaf yesterday.

Winona
Winona and Rye head into the armory and begin suiting up. Winona dons a full suit of double-linked chainmail, along with steel bracers, boots, and an open-faced helm. She then throws her robe and holy symbol on over the armor. She looks around at the weapons hanging on the walls and takes a huge, two-handed flail, the head made of silver and shaped like a pair of intersecting axes. She straps this 25-pound monstrosity to her back, then grabs a pair of metal bars linked by a chain in the center and stuffs this into her belt. She stretches a bit to make sure she can move in the armor, then, satisfied that she is ready to go kick some devil butt, turns and looks at her diminutive companion.

Rye stands looking at her agape, still dressed in just her white robes and ceremonial coif. “Rye,” Winona says, “you should probably make sure you’re ready for a fight. There are devils out there to deal with.” The halfling women makes another frightened squeak, walks over to a weapons rack and grabs a harness with numerous sheaths attached to it. She takes off the robe, dons the harness over her similarly white chemise, then grabs handfulls of knives and begins stashing them everywhere. Finally she takes a large hunting knife, almost a sword for the small woman, and sticks this in a sheath attached to the back of the harness at the waist, then puts her robe back on over all of it, concealing the many weapons. “Ok,” she squeaks, “ready as I’m going to get.”

Winona looks at her incredulously, “You know the quarter-master will let us take our pick of armor, right?”

“Yeah, it’s all just too heavy.” She looks around nervously, “Besides, armor just makes it take longer to get dressed again if I have to…you know…”

“Alright Rye, lets go find Lyra and see what Tyr has in store for us.”

“Oh, Sister Winona,” the small woman squeaks again, “Theymr said to make sure I’m back within two weeks…”

Winona sighs, “Yes Sister. We mustn’t break the rules, musn’t we?”

Winona and Rye come up the stairs into the main entry hall, accompanied by much clinking from the former. Winona waves a mailed fist at Lyra, “So where are we off to first dearie?” She looks at the stack of paintings, “Becoming an art dealer?”

Lyra
Lyra kept her voice quiet. “Among the things in the tower on the weir, these seemed like the easiest to get here. And with funds from that I can replace our ruined food stores and bow. First, finding a buyer, then making my report to the council, or at least an appointment to report to the council. Then shopping.” Lyra perks up visibly at that last part. “Let’s start with the Temple of Sune, they like art, right?”

Winona
Rye pipes up, “Yep.” She pushes hard on the large doors, opening them wide to let Lyra through with the paintings. As they walk out she pipes up, “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. I’m Ryesha Whiteears, I was just transferred here last month from the Neverwinter diocese. I just finished my training.” She walks along beside Lyra, with a strangely exited, springy stride—almost bouncing across the square between the temples. She looks closely at Lyra’s dress, “Your clothes are pretty nice, but they’re not in the best of shape, are they? Your dress could use hemming…”

Winona smirks and mumbles, “Don’t be rude Rye. A few days of adventuring and I’m sure our robes will look even worse.”

“Not with me around!” Rye squeaks.

Lyra
Lyra smiles at the young priestess. Her enthusiasm was contagious. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Ryesha. I am Lyrathwen Alethiel Beragaion, originally from Waterdeep. This dress is actually one I bought just recently as a spare. Although I do think this shade of green favors my coloring.”

“Sister Winona, how are things in town with the harbor closed? Given what I’ve seen less than a day out of Phlan, I imagine relying on land trade routes is impeding quite a bit.”

The square and the temple to Sune were just as she remembered them. “Would one of you mind getting the door for me?”

GM
You wander across the square, getting some add looks from various passersby, presumably because of Lyra’s unusual burden. The doors of the Temple of Sune are open this morning. Several priestess and celebrants lounge on the steps and you can hear the sounds of a string quartet coming from inside. As you walk up with your pile of paintings, one of the lounging priests, a bare-chested, well-oiled, red-haired man dressed only in a kilt springs. “Ladies,” he says with a sweeping, perfectly executed bow, “what brings you to Sune’s house this fine morning?” He glances at the painting on the top of the stack approvingly, “What a lovely piece, it goes with your eyes…”

Lyra
“I had heard that the Temple of Sune might have an aesthetic appreciation—” Lyra’s eyes drift downward and then snap quickly back up to his face as her ears start turning redder than his hair. “—for such things. As it happens, these are available for the right offer. Some of them are quite striking.”

GM
The priest seems completely nonplussed by Lyra’s embarrassment, instead giving another sweeping bow and gesturing towards the temple entrance. “Excellent,” he says. “I’ll show you to the gallery and we shall see if the Procurator is interested. Follow me.” He pivots gracefully and leads the way with a practiced swagger, flexing far more muscles than should be necessary for the simple motion.

Through the doors you find a large, opulent domed atrium. Beautiful furniture, clearly selected for both comfort (especially when lounging, which seems to be a popular activity around here) as well as for aesthetic value, sits clustered in several groupings designed to facilitate intimate conversations for twos, threes, or fours. Every available nook is filled with statuary, with a particular preponderance of tastefully nude humanoids, or beautiful potted plants. The walls are hung with paintings and tapestries in all manner of styles, as well as with silk curtains, which you can only assume lead to the other areas of the temple. The centerpiece is a large, bubbling fountain depicting a multitude of nymphs and cherubs. The base of the fountain is engraved with the words “Beauty issues from the core of one’s being and reveals one’s true face to the world.” The string quartet you heard earlier sits just beside the fountain playing a minuet. The performers are all priests by the look of them and are surrounded by a group of about a dozen congregants (easily recognizable as such by their not being perfect physical specimens and their inconsistent fashion sense).

The priest who led you in gestures for you to take a seat on a nearby settee and excuses himself to go look for the Procurator.

Lyra
The beautiful music and impeccably dressed and coiffed clergy make Lyra acutely aware of the fact that she is probably a bedraggled, travel-stained mess. Perhaps she should get cleaned up before trying to speak with the council.

Lyra perches on the edge of the settee, carefully setting the paintings down next to her.

Winona
Winona and Rye sit down beside Lyra. Winona looks around at the various artworks, “Sunites have fine taste,” she says quietly, “but not much between the ears. Still, I bet we could get a nice glass of wine out of the deal if you asked politely and fluttered those eyelashes of yours.” She adjusts her glasses, looking her most prudish, then says in a conspiratorial whisper, “Actually, knowing Sunites, you could probably get half-again as much for those paintings if you were showing a little more leg and some cleavage…”

Sister Rye makes a sound that is half tsk and half giggle, “Sister Winona, you shouldn’t say such things.” She hops off the settee and looks around, “Everyone looks so pretty here, though. I wonder who makes their clothes?”

“Why? Are you looking to undercut the kilt market?”

Lyra
Lyra looks moderately scandalized at the suggestion, but then seems to consider it for a moment. “I don’t suppose that would help up speak to the council any faster, would it?”

She looks around at the fine curtains and statuary. “Does most of this come from the ruins, or is it imported?”

Winona
Winona shrugs, “I’m not an art critic. I presume most of it comes form the ruins though. Some of it might also be new. The Sunites usually try to show off the works of local artists whenever possible.”

Lyra
Lyra observes the clergy with their practiced courtesy and easy flattery. “A proper young lady remembers her courtesies, and dresses in a manner that is both flattering and appropriate. A well educated young lady is able to converse on nearly any topic, and can both appreciate, play, and compose music. A dutiful young lady helps those in need, and is mindful of her elders.” She turns back to the Sisters. “I’m sorry, I was just reminded of one of my tutors in Waterdeep, though I could scarcely imagine her in such outfits.” She put a hand to over her mouth, stifling a giggle.

GM
The priest returns, followed by an older woman, perhaps in her early fifties, but still the epitome of grace and elegance. The priest makes his sweeping bow again, “Ladies, allow me to introduce Priestess Poise, Chief Procurator of Sune’s gallery here in Phlan.” He sweeps one more bow for good measure, then excuses himself. Poise, living up to her appelation, stands perfectly tall and strait, looking down her nose at Lyra. “So you are an artist?” she asks, with just a touch of incredulity.

Lyra
Lyra self-consciously sits up straighter, shoulders back, head high, hands folded on her lap. “It is a pleasure to meet you. I am Lyrathwen Alethiel Beragaion, and I am no painter, but I sing and play the harp, and hope to continue my training with Professor Loughgren. These paintings were recovered from the ruins of the tower on the weir near Veljevo Castle. Some of them have been slightly damaged by the moisture, but I am sure there are none more suited to restoring them to their former glory.”

GM
The woman gives Lyra a distasteful look, “Oh, an adventurer,” she says quietly, and none too politely. “From near the castle you say? Well lets have a look at them.” She picks up the first piece and begins examining it carefully. She stares and mmhms for several minutes, then sets it aside and begins examining the second. This process repeats with each of the four, taking close to half an hour, during which she neither looks nor speaks to any of you. Finally she carefully sets down the last one and looks Lyra in the eyes, “You have a good eye for looting at least. The first painting is exquisite. The man with the parrot is discolored, but in such a way that it actually adds to the composition, one which I am sure Priestess Joy will especially like.” You take a second look at the painting she is indicating and realize that the muscular, bare-chested sailor would fit right in with the rest of the decor. “This one,” she says indicating the tiger, “is more damaged, but represents a style I’ve not seen before, so I’ll take it for the novelty. I can give you fifteen-hundred for the three of them. The whip,” she says the word like it is something obscene, “I have no use for.”

Lyra
Lyra saw no point in haggling with someone who so closely remembered her etiquette tutor. But of course she didn’t want the biggest one. I’ll be lugging it around town all day at this rate. She smiled politely. “I accept your offer.”

GM
“Very well,” Poise makes a small golf clap and the priest from before practically appears beside her. She waves her hand at the paintings, “please take all but the largest of these to the archives.” The priest makes his sweeping bow again, “Ladies,” then scoops up the paintings and disappears with them behind one of the silk curtains. “If you will please follow me,” she says, “we’ll see to your payment.” She pivots gracefully, her long skirt twirling behind her, and heads for another of the silk-disguised side-rooms.

Lyra
Lyra whispers to the Sisters “Any idea who would be interested in procuring a painting of a whip?” Lyra once again carefully picks up the large painting, and follows the priestess.

Winona
Winona looks at the painting tucked under Lyra’s arm, “Actually, dearie, I believe that painting is an archaic holy symbol of Loviatar…”

Rye hops around to Lyra’s other side and looks at it too, “I’m pretty sure Sister Winona’s is right, Miss Lyra. It’s a good thing you pointed out that you didn’t paint it…”

Lyra
Lyra sighed. I hope the others are having better luck than I am. “I suppose that explains her tone. If that’s the case, I’m not sure a motivated buyer is someone I’d be interested in dealing with. Let’s try Aylaran’s Silver Shop then. I need to see if there are any bows there. And of course the clerk’s office. Do you know how long it will take to speak with the council?”

Winona
Winona shrugs, “I guess that depends on what you have to say, dearie. The council should be in session, but sometimes the waiting list can be quite long to see them. You might have to part with some coin if you’re in a hurry.”

GM
Priestess Poise leads you through a bright red curtain into a small, well-appointed office. She gestures for you to have a seat on a divan, then kneels on a cushion in front of a small chest, carefully opening each of three locks. “Do you have a preference of gold or silver?”

She stops and looks back at you, again with that head-held-high, down-the-nose, appraising quality. “Nevermind. You’ll want to carry it,” she puts a rather distasteful emphasis on the word carry, as if that is something that should be beneath Lyra, “so it will have to be gold.” She takes a small, hardwood box from a shelf next to the chest and carefully counts out fifteen gold bars, each about five inches long, and places them in the box. “Thank you for your contribution to our gallery,” she says, standing and handing the box to Lyra. “May you find love and beauty in all your future endeavors.”

Lyra
Lyra carefully sets the painting down, facing away from the priestess as she accepts the box and tucks it carefully into her backpack, and then once again picks up the painting. “Thank you.”

Winona
Winona and Rye duck back out of the curtain. “She didn’t even offer us drinks,” Winona complains once they are out of earshot. She heads for the door, “Silver shop next? So what are you going to do with all that gold dearie?”

Lyra
Lyra nods. “Yes, the silver shop. Frantiska needs a new bow after she fell in the river and hers was ruined, and then we need to replace some of our food in favor of something less … fragile. Then I will split the remainder with my companions once we catch up to them. Beyond covering training costs and getting some extra clothes since I seem to keep having to give mine away, I hadn’t really thought about it…”

Winona
Winona heads out of the temple and leads the way across the street to the silver shop, holding the door open for the others. Rye walks close by Lyra, “If we’re going to be coming with you, I could take care of your dresses. It’s a lot more economical to buy fabric, and needles, and thread than pre-made, cheap, crappy dresses. Not that you have problems with money…”

“…I could make such pretty dresses for you…” Rye’s gets a wistful, far-off look in her eyes.

Lyra
“I’ve half a mind to get breeches, tunic and jerkin if I’m going to be an adventurer.” Lyra grinned, mimicking the procurator’s distasteful tone. “I can only imagine the look on Mother’s face. But I’m rather sure she scries on me, so I should probably refrain. She despairs of creating a proper lady out of me enough as it is.”

GM
As you walk into the silversmith’s shop, the first thing that catches your eye is a beautifully carved, recurved self bow, a full six feet in height and reinforced with silver bands hanging on a display rack on the back wall. Silver goods of all kinds, ranging from mundane plates to brightly polished swords and shields, are lined by on shelves and racks around the room. The center of the space is a workshop, with a small forge, and numerous molds, punches, hammers, vices and other tools. The proprietress, an elven woman with dark short-cropped hair, stands at a bench, armed with a magnifying glass and a pair of small pliers, carefully assembling on a very fine chain.

Lyra
Lyra gazes longingly at the exquisitely crafted bow, trying to remember all of the points Frantiska had made when evaluating bows at Jerome’s. But it’s clearly more than she can afford. She sets the painting down carefully, leaning it against the counter. “I don’t suppose you buy artwork?”

GM
The woman sets down her tools and looks up at Lyra, “I’m sorry miss, I generally do not buy things from people who walk into my shop, but I will take them in trade. If you need to liquidate something you found in the ruins, your best bet is Jerome’s Pawn Shop on the other side of the wall.”

Lyra
Lyra nods. “Very well, then how much would this piece be worth to you in trade? We’ll have need of silver weapons where we’re headed. I suspect the bow is more than I’m willing to part with, but what are you asking for it?”

GM
The lady smiles, “The bow will set you back seven thousand, five hundred gold pieces. It belonged to my late husbands and you’ll not find a finer one in all the north.” She looks at Lyra’s arms, “Though I doubt you’d even be able to string it.” She walks around the workbench, "May I?’ she says, indicating the painting.

Lyra
Lyra props up the frame so she can better see the painting. “Of course. Do you have any other bows, perchance?”

GM
The woman takes her magnifying glass and begins examining the painting, though she seems to spend more time looking at the frame than the actual artwork. “Yes,” she says, still staring through the glass, “I have a couple more bows in the back. I am also friends with a fine bowyer in Eleventree if you would like something specific—though with the harbor closed it may be some months before I could have it here.” She places the glass back on the workbench and finally looks at Lyra again, “I can’t say that I’m a fan of the painting, though I suppose I might be able to find a buyer. The framing is very nice though.” She steps away from the workbench and heads towards a small back room, “Let me get the bows for you to look at and we can discuss trade.” As she goes, you notice that she walks very erect and that you can still see her eyes, reflected in numerous mirrors, shields, and plates set on shelves around the room—and you are sure that she can also see everything going on in the shop.

Winona
Winona yawns and leans against the workbench and looks around the shop, “You know dearie, just judging from the short time I’ve known you, you spend way too much of your life shopping…”

Lyra
Lyra shrugs. “If you’d prefer to travel to Melvaunt with a bowless archer and past wights in the woods without enough silver, I’d rather not stake our lives on the hope that a talking severed head is an oathbreaker as well as a zombie.”

Winona
Winona laughs, “I was kidding dearie. It never hurts to be prepared…and well armed.” Rye’s eyes, meanwhile, get very large, “Did you say wights?!”

Lyra
Lyra nods. “We just saw the one, but I assume there are more. I’m thinking silver arrows, silver crossbow bolts, a dagger for me, a replacement bow for Frantiska, and …” she looks down at Sister Rye. “Do you have something silver, or shall I add something to the list?”

Winona
Sister Rye looks terrified at the thought, “Umm…no,” she squeaks. “You don’t need to buy me anything…I don’t think I could fight a wight regardless…”

“Yeah,” Winona says, “our little Bunny here isn’t really the fighting type.”

Lyra
Lyra concentrates, reaching out to Donovan. After a false start, she manages to find him. “Mr. Donovan? I’m at the silver shop. The Sunites took three paintings for fifteen hundred, and she’ll take the other in trade. I was thinking we’ll need more silver arrows, and maybe some bolts just to be safe. Could you ask Frantiska what sort of bow she’d like?”

Donovan
At the mental mention of Frantiska, Donovan starts crying, No, he thinks. Images of the fight with the wolf-things and of Frantiska’s crushed and mangled body play in his mind for Lyra to observe. We have a new companion tagging along. A goblin cheese-merchant. He was able to repair Frantiska’s leg, though she is still unconscious. We’re trying to make her comfortable. Rant says that she’ll still need several weeks to recover.

Oh, Donovan thinks, we also owe the goblin fourty-ish gold pieces, so don’t spend it all.

Lyra
Donovan gets the sense that Lyra is clearly in shock, and several seconds pass in silence as she fights to keep enough focus to maintain the link. “If I’d been there…” Lyra cuts off abruptly as wherever that thought was going was not being transmitted. More seconds pass in silence. “Two of the Sisters of Tyr have insisted on accompanying me. I won’t be able to come back the way I came, between them and the weight of the bullion. If I rest up, I should be able to take us past the worst of it, and catch up on foot. Elsewise, I might be able to dream travel to catch up where you camp in the morning. I still have to meet with the council. As for your cheesemonger, there’s platinum in the box we recovered from the ruins, and I think some coins from the tower in the extra sacks. If you need me before I contact you again, Hrud should be able to find me, if not actually establish a connection, and I think I should be able to tell he’s doing it.” The thoughts came quickly, almost running into one another, as Lyra tries to get it all out while she’s able to maintain her composure. Donovan feels an almost crushing wave of disbelief and sorrow just before the connection breaks.

GM
Lyra comes to her senses to find the owner of the silver shop standing right beside her, three bows held in her arms, looking very concerned. “Miss? Miss? Are you well?”

Lyra
Lyra’s eyes slowly begin to focus on her surroundings. “I … I’ll be fine, just give me a moment. What do you have in silver daggers and crossbow bolts?” She couldn’t even stand to look at the bows right now.

GM
The woman sets the bows on the workbench. “How many are you looking for?”

Lyra
Lyra places a hand on the counter to steady herself. “One dagger. How much for a case of bolts?”

GM
She places a dagger on the workbench, “Five gold for the dagger, and five gold per case for the bolts.”

Lyra
Lyra nods. “And what can I get in trade for the painting? It did have a lovely frame.”

GM
“Tell you what, you can keep the painting. I’ll give you one of the bows, the dagger, and a case of bolts for the frame.”

Lyra
“Deal. I’ll also take an additional case of bolts and a quiver of arrows.” When did it get so dim in here, everything’s reflective. Lyra rubbed her temples, as if that would stop her head from swimming.

GM
The silversmith gathers up the indicated items, “That will be ten gold for the additional ammunition.”

Lyra
Lyra shrugs her backpack off of her shoulder and carefully removes the heavy box from her bag, and then removes one bar from her box and places it on the counter, before carefully closing the box and returning it to her pack.

GM
The smith suddenly looks much more attentive, “Is there anything else I can get for you, Miss?”

Lyra
Lyra’s eyes scan over what little jewelry is in the shop. “I might be interested in commissioning a gemstone pendant when I get back from Melvaunt, but this will do for now.”

GM
The smith nods, looking a little disappointed. She walks around the workbench and takes out a set of scales, calipers, a diamond-tipped scoring pen, and an axe. She carefully checks the stamps of mint and purity on the gold bar then weighs it. She then measures out one-tenth of the length of the bar, and scores it deeply with the pen, reserving the scrapings. Then makes one clean cut along the score with the axe, the sharpened steel easily cleaving through the soft metal. She then weighs the bar, weighs the piece she cut, weighs the scrapings, weighs them all together, and then weighs them all again. “Would you like to verify, Miss?” she asks, offering the scales for you to look at.

Lyra
Lyra had already decided she liked the silversmith, but looked at the scales and then nodded at her, only vaguely trying to recall what she’d heard about what you’re supposed to be watching out for.

GM
The woman takes the scrapings and the smaller piece and sets them aside, then hands the rest of the bar back to Lyra. She takes her gold and walks back into the back room, this time turning a corner to where you cannot see her in the mirrors. She returns to view a moment later, sans gold, and brings a bundle of silver-headed arrows and bolts from the back room. “Here you are. Did you decide on a bow you like?”

Lyra
Lyra removes the case from her backpack and places the remainder of the bar inside. She chooses the bow that seems most appropriate for Frantiska, strings it, and tests the draw. “This one.”

Winona
Winona smiles, “Great, let’s go kill some demons!” Rye looks considerably less enthused.

GM
The smith then turns over the painting, carefully opens the frame, removes the canvas, and hands it to Lyra. “Please come back any time, Miss.”

Lyra
Lyra places the bolt cases in her backpack, but keeps the bow and quiver easily accessible. At Winona’s outburst, she recalls a winged hyena throwing of Teldicia as the pack surrounds Frantiska, knocking her to the ground and tearing out her throat. Lyra fights back tears as she rolls up the canvas and heads out the door. Outside, she pulls her hood up, no longer able to contain the wracking sobs, but not wanting the Sisters to see her like this.

From the silversmith’s, it was a short walk to the clerk’s office. Too short, Lyra thought. She stood outside for a moment trying to regain her composure before opening the door and heading inside.

Winona
Winona and Ryesha stop on the way out to look at a few pieces of jewelry, “Come on Bunny, we need to keep an eye on that girl. She has a way of coming and going quite suddenly.” They jog out of the store and across the street to the Council Hall. “Hey Lyra dear, were there any other errands you needed to take care of after talking to the Council? Rather than following you around all day, maybe we could knock a couple things off your list?”

Lyra
Lyra sniffles again and looks up, her eyes red and watery. “Oh. Yes. Um.” She focused on her breathing. Deep calming breaths. “We need food that travels a bit more … safely … than glass jars of pickled vegetables. Maybe some dried mushrooms and dried vegetables? At least two sets of extra clothing. Maybe a scroll case we can put this canvas in. And a boot sheath for the dagger. Is there anything else you can think of that we’d need? I’m not sure how long it will take us to catch up to the cart on foot.”

Winona
“Well, dearie, I think I can remember all that. Would you like Rye and me to go fetch those things for you? We could just ask Ian to open a tab.”

Lyra
“I … yes, that would be good.” Deep breaths. “I’ll meet you there as soon as I can, then I can pay and we’ll be on our way.”

Lyra shrugs off one backpack strap and fishes out the box. Leaning over it so her cloak obscures it from passersby, she takes out the gold bar, and places the box back in her backpack. “This should cover most of it.” She slips the heavy bar to Sister Winona. Three more slow, deep breaths, and she opens the door to the clerk’s office, hand trembling. Time to face the council, and likely, her mother.

Lyra was almost relieved to see her mother sitting at the clerk’s desk. She waited quietly as a haggard man with a bandage wrapped around his head and over one eye and a makeshift sling on his left arm finished his paperwork. After he left, she approached the desk. “I have a report for the council regarding the undead in the area.”

Faelana finished writing a note in the large book in front of her. She looked her daughter over head to heels, noting the fraying edge of her cloak, the dried too-dark mud on her boots, her tangled hair, her reddened eyes, the elven bow and quiver of arrows, the sword at her hip, and most importantly, the protective spell still in place. “A written report is sufficient in such cases.” She hands her daughter a form to complete. “I presume this is regarding the matter you mentioned this morning, Lyrathwen?”

“Yes, Mother.” Lyra took the form and sat down to recount the events from both passing the graveyard and the attack on their camp.

“Mr. Leitch’s position as Herald is unfilled if you wish to reconsider this nonsense.”

Lyra hesitated. “No. I’ve accepted a commission and I will see it through.”

“Very well,” Faelana replied, although her tone indicated it was anything but. “You will need another form for reporting the Baatorian iron swords.” Faelana narrowed her eyes disapprovingly at the sword on her daughter’s hip. “I shall examine it to confirm your suspicions.”

Lyra carefully drew the sword, and handed it to her mother hilt first, then picked up the indicated forms. Faelana’s brows furrowed as she turned over the sword, not at all liking what she saw. “You said there were two others?”

“Yes, Mother. It’s all in the report.” Lyra had to keep pausing her writing because her hands were shaking too much. Lyra placed the completed papers on the desk, and resheathed her sword.

Faelana took both sets of papers, and made some notes in her tight, precise handwriting. “There is a reward for information regarding the undead. Wait here.” With a swirl of skirts, she disappeared into the other room. Not long after, she returned with a few gems and a scroll.

Lyra accepts the bag of gems and the scroll. She checks its contents before tucking the bag of gems into her belt pouch. A fire opal, two agate, and a chunk of jet with pyrite inclusions. “Do you know what’s on the scroll?”

Faelana raised an eyebrow as she returned to her seat at the desk. “Two Restoration spells. Do make an effort not to need them.”

Lyra could only nod in agreement. “I will make every effort to return from Melvaunt safely, Mother. I … I should be going. We’ll want to be well past the graveyard before it starts getting dark.”

The door was closed and the sound of the chime fading before Faelana could ask who ‘we’ happened to be.

Winona
Winona and Rye hurry across the plaza and behind the Training Hall to Ian Cockburn’s Grocery. A small bell rings as they enter, barely audible over the clanking of Winona’s armor. Rye bounces into the store behind her. The face of the young man behind the counter goes white at the sight of the heavily armed and armored priestess. “Sisters!” he says with false cheerfulness, “What brings you in today?” He wipes his hands on his apron and starts to come around the counter, “Surely you’re not holding last night against me…”

Winona glares at him over the rim of her spectacles, “Don’t worry Ian, you won fair and square last night. We’re here to give you more money, not take it back.” She walks up and lays the partially chiseled gold brick on the counter. “So, can we get some service?”

Rye looks at him a little sideways. “I don’t know Sister Winona,” she squeaks, “I still don’t believe he just happened to pull that king…” She crosses her arms and furrows her brow, trying, quite unsuccessfully, to look intimidating instead of just cute.

Seeing the gold, the grocer immediately snaps to attention, all business, and not wanting to anger the volatile priestess. “Of course, what can I get for you?” he says, completely ignoring Rye, who was obviously the more attentive card-player but the less obvious threat.

Winona leans against the counter, clearly expecting to be waited on when flashing that kind of cash. “Just a few things Ian. Some vegetables for the road, dried, not canned, a scroll organizer, a boot sheath for a dagger, and…”

Rye cuts in, “And scissors, needles, thread, four yards of silk, the dark blue stuff there, ten yards of canvas, ten yards of linen, ten yards of flannel, and a yard of lace,” she says decisively. “Oh, and four yards of Santolin if you have it.”

Ian grabs a crate from the stack beside the counter and begins gathering up the listed items, “What sort of provisions did you have in mind, and how much?”

“Oh,” Winona follows him around the store, “How much for those mushrooms?”

“Eighty gold a pound,” he says.

Her nose screws up and she adjusts her glasses, “Eighty? Well, how about the beans, those green ones? I think there are eight of us that will need fed.”

“Three gold a pound.”

“Give us all of those then.”

Ian raises an incredulous eyebrow, then shrugs, thinking better than to question someone with a flail with a head larger than his own, even if it is obvious that they have never cooked in their life. He bags up all of the green beans, almost five pounds worth and puts them in the crate, with the other smaller items.

“Oh,” Winona says, pointing at a large, round red thing amidst the fresh produce, “What are those?”

“They’re called tomatoes.”

“Can I get a pound of those too? They look delicious.”

Ian carefully stacks a few tomatoes on top of the other things in the crate, then sets it on the counter. He and Rye disappear down one of the isles and, after a few minutes worth of snipping sounds, return with his arms loaded with several bolts of cloth. “Anything else I can get you, Sisters?”

“Rye?” Winona asks.

“Nope.”

Ian begins pointing at the items collected, whispering under his breath as he counts and calculates, then says, “That will be eighty-seven gold and four pence.”

Winona looks at the mostly intact gold brick on the counter. “Keep the change,” she says, gathering the crate in her arms. “Rye can you handle all that cloth?”

“Yep!” The halfling squeaks happily, scooping up the stack with her arms.

As they exit, Rye, barely able to see over the tall stack of cloth, says cheerfully, “I’m going to make Miss Lyra the prettiest dress EVER!”

Winona and Ryesha come hurrying across the square with their burdens. Seeing Lyra exiting the Clerk’s Office, they make their way there, “That was short, Dearie,” Winona observes. “Council session let out early? We were all set to find a bench and wait a few hours.”

Lyra
Lyra shakes her head. “Apparently intelligent undead aren’t worthy of the council’s considerations in person. I had to file a report. Did you get the … food?” Lyra trails off as she looks at the giant pile of canvas, silk, linen, and … is that lace peeking out?

Winona
Seeing Lyra staring at her, Rye peeks over the pile and pipes up, “They didn’t have any nice dresses, so I bought stuff to make you a few…”

Lyra
“I’m surprised you could afford all that given how much the mushrooms ought to cost. I don’t suppose there’s any change back from that gold bar? Do you have the scroll case and boot sheath? Once I get these put away, we can be on our way. If we follow the river, I … know a shortcut … that would get us past the graveyard and castle safely.”

Winona
Winona looks sheepish, “No change, sorry, and we couldn’t afford the mushrooms, but I got these toe-may-toes, which look tasty. Why would you head by the graveyard anyways?” She says, quickly changing the subject, “That’s on the west side of town. Aren’t you headed to Melvaunt?”

Lyra
Lyra tried to visualize the path they’d taken the previous day. “We left on that side of town. Is there a better route to overtake the cart?”

Winona
Winona points to the east, “There is the bridge right at the end of Old Wall Road. We’d have to go by the Temple of Xvim, but that’s the way most people go.”

Lyra
The Temple of Xvim. Lyra wasn’t looking forward to seeing what kind of reaction they would have to the sword at her hip. “Then let’s take that way. Just stay close to me. If there’s trouble I don’t intend to linger.”

Lyra’s eyes went wide as she considered the implications of the sword — and how it was acquired. “Brother Rant publicly executed one of the Xvimlar yesterday morning. And you both look very….” Her hand gripped the bow tightly. Both priestesses looked splendid in their white robes. And obviously followers of Tyr. “They likely won’t be happy about that. You’ll be in danger, moreso than usual. I … I can get us past the temple, and probably past most of the rest of the way out of the city.”

Winona
Winona shrugs, “Whatever you like Dearie. They may be evil bastards, but they are less aggressive around here than one might think. The Council keeps a heavy guard on this side of the bridge, and the Xvimlar keep their own on the other. Merchants come in and out that way all the time, as do adventurers, and even a few of our order who want to proselytize to the people living on the other side of the river. The worst that happens to most of them is just having to pay a bribe to get across the bridge. Actually, to tell the truth Dearie, the Xvimlar are something of a civilizing influence over there, a little on the ruthless and tyrannical side, but they keep the orcs mostly in check.”

Lyra
Lyra’s eyes narrowed, her anger almost palpable. “There’s nothing civil about the orcs we took these swords from. The only thing we arrived in time to save Ellen from was death. Let’s just get this over with.” She spun on her heel and strode off before stopping abruptly. “Er. Which way to the bridge from here?”

Winona
Rye points a shaking finger, “That way,” she squeaks. Winona hefts the crate and leads the way.

Lyra
Lyra follows close behind the two priestesses, entertaining thoughts of how best to deliver a Xvimlar bribe when she wasn’t carrying much besides trade bricks. Most involved acceleration due to gravity.

GM
The walk to the bridge is short, only three blocks north of the Training Hall and a block east of the Parkside Gate where you first made your way into the slums. The bridge is a large and ancient-looking affair—a single high arch of heavy stone five-hundred feet long, spanning the river with room for a large barge to pass beneath it, and decorated with crumbling statues of long-dead lawmakers. The river-side wall, a remnant of the old town, is breached by a massive iron-latticed gate, and guarded by ten soldiers bearing the crest of Tempus, god of war, whose temple lies just across the street from the bridge. Towers on the temples of Tempus and Gond sport large catapults that are aimed towards the bridge, ready to repel any assaults from that direction.

As you approach, laden with goods, the guards eye you warily. One, seeing the sword at Lyra’s belt snuffs distastefully and moves to open the gate, apparently much less concerned about those going than those potentially coming.

Winona
Winona smiles at the guards, “Having a nice day boys?” She walks through the gates, not really waiting for a reply. Sister Ryesha bounces along at her heals. “So, miss Lyra,” the halfling jabbers, “I’ve never made an adventuring dress before. Santolin seems the ideal fabric, but are their any special features you would like? Should it have pockets? Split skirts? Maybe an armor-plated bodice?”

Lyra
Lyra smiles at the energetic halfling. “I’ve never needed an adventuring dress before. Pockets sound like they would be useful. I don’t think I’d need armor, with the spell Mother cast. A split skirt might be useful, but…” Lyra blushed. “I’m not sure my mother would approve. The color is lovely though.” Lyra tensed as they crossed the bridge. “There were shrieking fish in the river at the weir. They knocked Frantiska in, and we were barely able to save her.”

Winona
“Llamhigyn-y-dwr? Waterleapers. Yeah, they show up pretty often in the river, or so I hear. I’ve only seen them once or twice, but I’ve never heard of the jumping up as high as the bridge here.” Winona walks calmly over to the edge of the bridge and peers over the side at the black water running beneath it. “All sorts of weird things come out of that water, and nothing friendly or edible. No one has detected any magic about it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some old gate to the Styx or worse up on Sorcerer’s Island. Especially given your recent findings.” She spits into the water far below, then resumes walking across the long bridge, keeping her eyes open for stray arrows—though it is early in the day for such. “It is already clear that diabolists were out in force here in Phlan at some time in the past.”

Lyra
“Yet you’re following me to Melvaunt. The cart is slow going, so we should be able to catch up. Unless we’ve gotten ahead of them by going this way….” But they’d had to stop. Tears started welling again. “I can look for signs of the wagon on the road, but it … it looks busy enough that might be futile.” Foot traffic on the bridge was busier than she’d imagined. But the ports were closed, and trade must go on. She looked over the far end of the bridge, trying to judge how quickly people got through the far side.

GM
A make-shift barrier has been constructed at the far end of the bridge, a felled, coniferous tree, it’s needles long gone but with a few branches still intact, has been laid across the entire breadth of the bridge, supported by the two of the statues. A pair of orcs stand in front of the barrier, hauling it aside to allow travelers to pass. A man clad in banded armor covered with a tabard depicting the green and black fist of Xvim, his face hidden by a large helm, stands in the center of the bridge, just ahead of the barrier, taking coins and other offerings from those passing through the crude gate. Already today they seem to have acquired a substantial amount of goods from the passersby—weapons, cloaks, foodstuffs, metal ingots, and other items—which have been heaped in a pile to one side of the bridge.

Lyra
“Should I be worried about how they’ll react to the sword? You should probably do the talking when we get to the gate. Xvimlar have been nothing but trouble since I arrived.” Given her youth, Lyra looked more petulant than angry.

Winona
Winona rattles the flail across her back suggestively, “We’ll just have to see how it goes, Dearie. There are only three of them. If they cause any trouble I’m sure we can trouble them back.”

“Ummm, Sister,” Ryesha squeaks, “is getting in a fight with them really a good idea? There is a law against brawling in the streets…”

“That law ends at the gates behind us, Bunny. I don’t intend to pick a fight, but if the Xvimlar are bothering Miss Lyra, then we’ll be sure to make them stop, one way or another.” Winona smiles at Rye, then walks on towards the make-shift gate.

Lyra
Lyra shook her head. “I wasn’t the one in danger. We kept having to stop them from hurting people. Did Brother Rant tell you how we met? He was lying in the street in the slums, his robes almost as much red as white, with orc lepers holding bloody knives standing around him talking about Mace. Even after receiving healing he could barely walk.” So I did what was necessary. Shaddup and Donovan couldn’t carry him. Lyra tried not to think about how handsome he’d looked in his armor and robes the next morning as they approached the gate guards.

GM
As you approach, the two orcs barely look at you. One stands up strait by his post, clearly trying to look officious, but yawns widely. The other leans casually against the make-shift barrier, munching on a pear taken from their pile of “tolls”. The mail-clad Xvimlar, however, turns to look strait at you, his eyes barely visible through the visor, scan over the three of you, finally settling on Lyra’s green dress, dark cloak, and then the sword at her waist. He waves a hand and says something unintelligible to the two orcs, who immediately jump to attention and slide the gate open. The three of them stand out of your way—in fact they stand well out of your way—and wave you through.

Winona
Winona walks cautiously past the orc guards and gives Lyra an appraising look, just now really noticing her choice of clothing. “See, perfectly reasonable…” She tries to look casual, but slightly quickens her pace to get off the bridge faster. “The road goes strait out of town from here,” she says, “but this section of town is crawling with thieves, orcs, and Xvimlar, or so I hear. The last, it seems, are the ones we should be the least concerned about.”

Ryesha follows quietly on their heels, her normally bouncing step considerably more sedate, her face ashen, and casting furtive glances at the heavily armored man twice her size.

Lyra
Lyra barely had to break stride as they scrambled to clear her path. They’re not afraid of me, they’re afraid of what the sword means. Once they were well past, she looked around for a likely spot out of sight.


“I intended to bypass most of the town, although I’d rather be slightly less obvious about it. Here, around that building and we should be fine.” She put a hand on each priestess and steered them towards a likely piece of rubble.