The following morning there was discussion whether to continue on to the Foxglove Manor or return to town. Several pointed out that we had destroyed the nest of the ghouls, while others wanted to continue the fight. Several of the party had put off training. They argued successfully that the new skills would be needed before we would be ready to take on the true force behind the ghoul attacks. We burned the bodies in the barn, and said prayers for the innocent souls. We departed for town at first light.
The party was greeted by jubilant crowds. News of our successes had reached town ahead of us. Young women tried to catch the eyes of the men in the party. It looks like Strabo will have no trouble finding girls this trip! Oddly, eligible young men did not the same with Rain. Rather, they seemed to look at her with harsh looks much to her discomfort. It seems that they have not forgotten the notes written in blood to her from His Lordship.
Paladin Samson was walking about town later that day and was approached by a young woman outside the general store. She called out, “I hear you help people. This is …embarrassing. My father has a rat problem.” She pointed to the cellar door of the store, “Could you do it? Come down into the basement.” She seemed to be a sweet young thing, maybe sixteen years old. Sampson replied, “OK, miss…?” “I’m Shayliss (batting her eyes) Come on in!” The ever cautious Samson, “I just need to tell Agrent where I am.” “What, you are going to tell your friends!” She slammed the cellar door shut and walked off in a huff! Back at the inn Sampson mentioned Shayliss to Agrent. The Innkeeper overheard and laughed at Samson’s plight, “why her town nickname is Shameless!”
Rain stopped by the White Deer Inn, where she found a note waiting for her. The Innkeeper handed her a note from her sister Shaeleu. It said that she had been recruited by the Shin’Rakortath. Rain knew that to be a semi-secret group that is composed strictly of Elves, and works for the government of Kyonin. Only a few have heard of it, but even they do not know its mission or goals. Shaeleu’s note went on to say that she had “applied for it when you were born.” She was being recalled to the Mieriani Forest. The note also mentioned that the abandoned Foxglove Manor. She had heard that the young Foxglove had tried to reopen it. Strange things are rumored to have been happening there. She went on, “If you see Father, please tell him where I have gone.” Shaeleu hoped that Rain would find success while she was away!
Strabo doesn’t need training and the note from calling for his return to Riddleport weighed heavily on his mind. He announced that he was going to make a quick trip to return the prisoner. Parlay and Blossom quickly agreed. Rain recalling the open animosity the town seems to have for her, also agreed to go with Strabo. Bron expressed his belief that the guards were not just going to let the prisoner go, but Strabo assured him that he could persuade them!
Strabo quickly booked passage for the four plus the prisoner. He asked his companions to wait outside the jail, while he went in to secure the prisoner’s release. At first the guards were not going to let Strabo have the prisoner, but he convinced them by casting Charm Person. Strabo quickly secured and gagged Orik the prisoner. They went outside were Rain was amazed that Strabo had gotten the guards to release the prisoner to him. “Oh, I can be very persuasive!” replied Strabo. He quickly led them to the ship. They boarded just minutes before crew cast off. Strabo easily answered his comrade’s questions about securing the prisoners release. The same could not be said later that day by the guards in response to Sheriff Belor’s questions!
The voyage to Riddleport took two days, which were uneventful. The four members of the party took turns keeping a watch on the prisoner. Strabo only removed the gag to feed him, but first warned him of crying out! The first few time the Orik tried to plead to be released as soon as the gag was removed. Strabo stuffed the gag back in without feeding him each time. After missing two meals the prisoner followed orders.
Strabo took time during the voyage to brief his friends on Riddleport. He pointed out that it would not be wise to wander about. There were many different factions all willing to slit your throat as look at you! He told them it would be “best if no one could recognize the identity of their prisoner. He would cast a charm on Orik before they left the ship. They would place a helm on the prisoner to obscure his face. His hands would be manacled behind him under a cloak.
The second day of the voyage found them approaching the harbor at Riddleport. Long before they could see individual buildings a giant arch could be seen spanning the harbor entrance. Rain asked Strabo about it and was informed it is an ancient Thasolinian Structure called the Cyphergate. It is covered with massive runes, which look as sharp as the day they were made. There is a group called the Cypher Mages, which have been studying the object for over one-hundred years. They have established a Cypher Hall near the base at one side of the arch.
Something looked different as they drew closer to the city. There is a strange blot or shadow in the sky. The captain informs them that it suddenly appeared a few weeks ago. A mage managed to fly up to investigate it. His name is Blakely and the townsfolk have been calling Blakely’s Blot ever since. Blakely left for Korvosa upon returning to the ground. The city is offering a five-hundred Gold Piece reward to the one that discovers its secret.
The captain told them of a contest slated to be held at the Golden Goblin. “Tis, ‘Cheat the Devil’ that Saul is offering. Odd though when you think on it, only a year ago he was broke and his gamblin’ house run down. Suddenly, he has money to refurbish his gamblin’ house and money to sponsor a contest,” mused the captain! With that the captain turned his full attention on his ship. He barked out the orders to reduce sail as they approached the entrance to the harbor. The captain’s attention focused on docking his ship allowed Strabo, Parlay, Rain, and Blossom to go below deck and prepare Orik for his walk to the temple.
Once the ship was secured to the wharf the captain oversaw the off-loading of the cargo. This allowed the party move down the gangplank without so much as a second look. They walk at a steady pace led by Strabo. Several of the locals called out as they passed by. Things such as “Blimey, look at that. It’s an Abbot.” “He’s got a couple of pigeons he be take’n to the temple!” “Hey, fancy girl!” His confused friends asked Strabo what the people meant? He quietly informed them, that an “Abbot” was slang for a cleric; a “pigeon” was someone to be a convert; and a “fancy girl” was slang for a female Elf. Strabo read off several common terms. A “kiss” is a stab. “Leaky” is someone who can’t keep a secret. “Lumber” is a term for a passenger on a ship. A “Pump Sucker” is a dwarf. A “Quick Wife” is slang for a street walker. “Kiss the snicker snack” is slang for murder. Parlay and Rain are beginning to have second thoughts about Riddleport, but Blossom seems unfazed!
The party finally reached an imposing structure, which Strabo proudly announced, “Welcome to the House of the Silken Veil!” “More like the whorehouse,” snorted Rain! They were met by two attendants as soon as they entered. Strabo showed them the “two-word” note he received in Sandpoint. The party was immediately conducted deep inside the temple. Along the way they passed many rooms, in which, every type of sexual perversion was going on. This amused Parlay, but Rain got quieter along the way. Blossom on the other hand seemed to be enjoying the scenes each room revealed. Finally, with a “See Ya later” she dove off and disappeared in one of the rooms. Rain only shook her head, “Figures!”
At last, they were ushered into an opulent chamber. Its elegant if unusual furnishings overshadowed by the imposing female priestess standing there. She had purple eyes, a purple tattoo across her chest and stood tall. She was dressed in black leather with yellow accents and a whip slung over one shoulder. The two horns protruding from her forehead only seemed to accent her voluptuous beauty! “Well what have we here” she asked seductively. “May I present the High Priestess Shorafa Pamodae, the head of our order!” gushed Strabo. “Well, my lady we bring you your requested individual” he added with a flourish as he removed the helm from Orik! “Oh, you don’t have to gage him” she said in a velvet voice. The gag fell away with a wave of her hand.
Orik lamented, “I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. At least you’re not Cleg!” “He wants you very much, so you are valuable,” Shorafa said coyly, “You will remain here. Stay away from the girl!” She motioned a dismissal with a wave of her hand. Immediately an attendant appeared and escorted Orik away. As soon as he was out of sight Shorafa turned back to Strabo, “You haven’t introduced your friends.” He smiled, “This is the mighty warrior Parlay and the talented ranger Rain!” “Welcome to the House of the Silken Veil. We would be honored to have you stay here as our guests.”
Shorafa once more turned to Strabo, “The last thing I want is for Cleg to be Overlord.” Strabo asked about the Golden Goblin and Saul Vancaskerkin. She replied, “I don’t know where he got the money to rebuild the Golden Goblin. I have questioned many of his workers and have not been able to learn how. This is something new!” Strabo remarked, “It must be someone powerful.”
Strabo was all for returning to Sandpoint to rejoin his business partners. Shorafa in decidedly disappointed voice, “The competition is in 7-days. I guess I will have to get someone else to look in to it!” A chastened Strabo, “I didn’t know it was so urgent. Of course, I will do it. I will send a message to our business partners to join us here.” The smile returned to her face, Shorafa. “We will place Rain in your quarters to safe guard her.” She then turned to Rain, “Would you like wine or ale brought to you there?” Rain murmured, “No wine!” Shorafa proudly remarked, “We brew our own ale. It is safer! At the festival tonight, Rain you will be with me.” Shorafa turned her attention back to Strabo, “She should be dressed to fit in.” Shorafa then turned seductively to Parlay, “Now, what about your large friend here?” Strabo informed her that Parlay would be taking the message to Sandpoint. “Too bad, I would enjoy spending the night with him,” she smiled and batted her eyes. Parlay, “You be too thin – break your pelvis! Not strong like Shoanti woman.” Shorafa laughed, “You would be the one to worry about a cracked pelvis, which I would be only too pleased to cure!
Strabo and Parlay left with Rain to escort her to Strabo’s apartment in the temple. Along the way Strabo lamented that Parlay return to Sandpoint prevented him from spending the night with Shorafa. “She wouldn’t go to forest after we marry,” replied Parlay, “Better we don’t.” Upon reaching his apartment Strabo told Rain to relax and make herself at home. “If you need anything, just ask one of the attendants. Be careful with the “Riddleport Tea” it entices a woman to say yes!”
Strabo then escorted Parlay back to the wharf. He arranged passage for Parlay. As he said farewell, “Remember it is important they come. We are going to need all the help to sort this trouble out.” Parlay grunted his assurance that he would deliver the message, “They will come! Look after Rain, she not used to city like this!”
Back at Sandpoint the remaining party members took up their training. Cameo and Agrent trained with Cameo’s grandmother Niska Mvashti. She spends the week having Cameo try every instrument and tried to teach him to be a better Varisian. The entire time she kept calling Cameo “Kizzy”, much to Agrent’s amusement. “Me thought you name Cameo. Now it be Kizzy,” he said straining to keep a straight face. Cameo kept asking his grandmother to call him Cameo, and each time she smacked him along side of his head. Niska gave Agrent an herb she calls cinnamon, “Grind it up and sprinkle it on your bread.” Agrent showed her a plant he had found and asked if it was good for a poultice. She said it had no special properties. Agrent said he needed, “a poultice for big knife cuts.” Niska smiled and showed him the proper herb. Agrent was very pleased and promised he would show to Strabo. Niska sighed, “It’s too bad he is a follower of Calistra. If only he had found Desna !”
Paladin Sampson had spoken with Mayor Kendra about Thistletop. He explained how some of the party were planning on using it as a base. The mayor was sure the Merchant’s Association would be willing to arrange the work in “appreciation of all your party has done for the town!” Sampson said that the bridge needed to be reinforced and a guard set to keep the goblins from returning. The mayor assured him they would get started on it right away.
Parlay arrived back in Sandpoint at the end of the week. He found Sampson, Agrent, Cameo, Bron, and Falathar at the Rusty Dragon. We asked where he had been. “Strabo, Blossom, Rain and me turned in some guy at Riddleport.” Bron asked, “Now, that wouldn’t be Orik, who we took prisoner at Thistletop?” “That the guy” was Parlay’s reply. Bron shook his head, “Now I understand what happened. Orik disappeared from jail and the guards couldn’t remember how! They are in hot water with the sheriff!”
Parlay relayed the message from Strabo asking us for to come help in Riddleport. There was a heated discussion with Agrent, and Cameo for going and Sampson, Bron and Falathar against. Sampson asked, “what about the ghouls?” Agrent replied it’s only a one-day job. Falathar pointed out, “It’s two-days up, one day there, and two-days back. That is a week away!”
We then learned of another murder. The body of Alliver “Pillbug” Podiker had been found with a seven-pointed star carved in his chest. Falathar asked who Alliver was and was told he owned “Pillbug’s” Pantry where he prepared and sold potions to cure and heal. His body was found on the other side of the marsh. It had another note to Rain on it:
You continue to ignore my invitations my love.
Did you not sense my need for you that evening
at the Rusty Dragon?
Bron shouted, “We have got ta stop this madness!” Sampson and Agrent argue for Riddleport. They point out we will need the entire company before we can tackle the Foxglove Manor. They rest of the part saw their point and agreed to leave to help Strabo. We gather our equipment and met at the wharf. There we took passage on the ship returning to Riddleport.
Upon reaching Riddleport Falathar is awed by the impressive structure of the Cyphergate. He recognized the Thassilonian runes on it included all seven schools of magic, the seven pointed star, and many lesser symbols. He was amazed by its perfect condition after so many eons. He was able to detect the faint preservative magic emanating from it! It looks to be 350 feet high and 700 feet wide. It would shape indicates that it completes the circle under water. The Ring is about thirty-five feet in thickness. Falathar asked the captain about it who said, “We think it is a great ring. Those Cyphermages are there to study it. They don’t have any idea what type of stone it is made from, nor how it operates!”
Once ashore Parlay led the party to the House of the Silken Veil. When they arrived they were greeted by several of the female attendants. They gushed over the Paladin Sampson, “Oh, what a handsome Paladin. We’ll have to peel you out of your shell” pointing at his armor. Sampson somewhat stiffly demanded, “Where is Rain?” “Rain – Oh Strabo’s new pigeon, she is inside!” They motion for us to follow and guided us past many rooms. Each room displayed a different variety of sensual pleasures. As the attendants led us by each they kept batting their eyes and smiling at Sampson’s obvious discomfort. It seemed to Falathar that the route they took was not very direct, but seemed chosen to expose the paladin to as many vices as possible. They seemed to take great delight in Sampson’s increasing uneasiness.
At last we reached Strabo’s apartment where our guides announced us. Strabo we have your other pigeons, I mean friends. Strabo welcomed us and thanked us for coming. One of the attendants brings in a silky dress, “You asked for appropriate costume for Rain.” Rain took one look at the fancy and what looked to be very revealing outfit, “I’m not wearing that!” Strabo calmly asked, “If you are to fit in at the festival, you will need to dress like everyone else. We need to blend in and your normal clothing says Ranger loud and clear!” Rain held up the costume and felt its luxurious texture as she ran her hand along it. “Well, you do have to walk on dry leaves differently than green leaves…I guess it makes sense,” Rain sighed in resignation. “Now, we will have to work on your walk,” announced Strabo. “What’s wrong with the way I walk,” she exclaimed! Strabo once more calmly, “You walk with an air. It says don’t approach me. You need to walk with an invitation in your stride. It is necessary if that you not be seen as an outsider, in order to glean the information we need!” I will leave you in the skilled hands of this young lady. We left Rain being tutored by the attendant. We all suppressed the urge to chuckle as Rain tried to emulate the young woman’s swaying hips.
Sampson said he needed to talk with Rain before we left. Strabo asked what is so important that we interrupt her training. “There has been another murder and note left back at Sandpoint. Strabo convinced him to wait until after the festival. “There will be time enough for her to worry about it on the return trip to Sandpoint.” Sampson took his leave saying he wanted to look into history of the beast that was trapped at Thistletop. Falathar left as the same time anxious to speak with the Cyphermages at their Lodge. Strabo gave one last bit of advice as we left, “You are a Paladin of Iomaedae and are in extreme danger. Get back tonight before nightfall.”
After we left one of young female attendants approached Strabo, “He’s a tank. Did you really snag a paladin of Iomedae?” Strabo with a smile, “I’m holding out hope that he will find comfort in the arms of a woman!” “He seems terrified to come in!
Sampson did not want to stay in the “ Temple ” any longer that necessary. He decided to look for answers elsewhere. He headed off to St. Caspieran’s Salvation. A gang of thugs seemed to be following him as he strode down the narrow lanes. As he passed by the Temple of Cayden Cailean , the god of freedom, bravery and ales/wine, he heard, “What you looking at tin can!” He finally arrived at a rundown courtyard. The building seems to be neglected and dirty. The paint was peeling off and some roof tiles were missing. The bell tower seems to be leaning. There are flagstone steps leading to two doors, which are covered with graffiti. One door leads to the flophouse up stairs. Someone has scrawled “take a hike all room taken” on that door. The other door opens to a small lobby with stairs at the back.
Sampson called out “Hello!” The air was ripe with the smell of sweat, cabbage soup and other odors he did not want to identify. There is an old font in the corner with a dented tin cup chain to it. A small timid man came out. “I’m looking for the person in charge. Would that be you?” “No, I am Jonas and you don’t want to talk with him? He is not usually accommodating with a person of your stature.” Sampson, “I am here to speak of the Beast.” Jonas shook his head, “You probably want to turn around and go out that door.” Sampson insisted, “I would really appreciate talking with someone.” “Well, I will take you to Father Padrick. He is old and blind. Beltias has taken over and run the place down.” Jonas leads Sampson upstairs to a simple room divided in two by a partition down the middle. Each side has a desk, chair, bookcase and bed. Sitting on one bed is a fastidious old man whose eyes are clouded over.
“Father Padrick you have a visitor.” “Yes my son, who is here?” “Paladin Sampson asking about Sarenrae.” The good father said, “We do have something here. You will have to look it up.” Sampson is worried about talking in front of Jonas. Father Padrick assures him, “Jonas is my caretaker.” Sampson relates how we “may have found the location where the beast was trapped underground.” Father Padrick asked where and was told somewhere to the South. “I and my friends found a place north of Sandpoint where a group was trying to release the beast!” “Jonas, show him the text on Sarenrae.” While Jonas searched for the correct volume Father Padrick exclaimed, “If released it will destroy the world!” Sampson said he needed the information to “make sure it is never released!” Jonas handed Sampson the texts on Sarenrae.
“Before you go, I am ashamed of what this place has become. Jonas can’t keep them out,” lamented Father Padrick. Paladin Sampson touched the Father on his shoulder, “Iomedae, I hope you find it to restore this man’s vision.” His prayer was answered and the clouds disappeared from Father Padrick’s eyes. “Jonas, he is real! Bring me that book of poetry. I want to read it myself!” The good Father thanked Sampson and asked, “You are strong, but if you could get a friend or two to clear Beltias from the Temple?” Sampson assured him that he did not need to bother his friends. “Just have Jonas show me the way”
Meanwhile, Falathar had made his way to the Cypher Lodge. There he found a long line of hopeful applicants waiting to talk with a monk standing at the door. In the line he spotted an attractive female half-elf. She had red hair and proudly displays Varisian tattoos. Falathar strode up and introduced himself and she returned his greeting with a smile. He asked why she was waiting in line and she informed him that she hoped to join the Cypher Lodge. He learned from her that Elias Tammerhawk was the head of the order. Falathar also gleaned from her that Elias was a major crime lord in Riddleport. Falathar though surely one as qualified as you shouldn’t have to wait in line “come up with me and we can talk to the monk.” She declined to leave her place in line, but wished Falathar luck.
Falathar walked directly up to the wizard controlling the line. He greeted the mage and said that he had traveled from far and would like to speak with someone about the Cyphergate. “What makes you think we would talk with you, “came the curt reply. “I am a fellow scholar of ancient Thassilonian artifacts. My friends and I have just investigated two major Thassilonian Structures down south by Sandpoint.” “So” was the flat response from the wizard. “Why, there is a local scholar there who has a theory that these were used as weapons,’ was Falathar’s exuberant reply. “Are you still here? Go away and quit wasting my time,” the wizard snarled. Falathar started to speak, “Now that’s no way..!” The wizard waved his hand in set motion and Falathar found himself without voice. Glaring, Falathar walked away and as he passed by the half-elf, she smiled and shrugged her shoulders.
((In truth, the bard Falathar is a bit of a chatty Cathy and rattled on and on about the Thassilonian artifacts found in the Sandpoint area till the wizard got tired of him.))
As Falathar walked by through town he composed a song to “praise” the Cypher Mage’s hospitality! As soon as his voice returned he began singing it around various groups, particularly where children could pick it up.
The Cypher Mages of Riddleport are a merry lot.
They speak of solving the riddle of the arch.
They portray themselves as scholars.
Yet, they seem more versed in nefarious pursuits!
The of the order of Cypher Mages
Is known not as the master of scholar,
But, rather the prince of thieves!