Meanwhile, near Dwardel…
On his first night in the area, X7-09 is approached after dark, during his sleep cycle, by two bald men in red, hooded robes.
“You see!” hisses one. “It’s him, the one from the dream!”
“Shall I paint him red, then kill him?” whispers the other.
“Nay!” says the first. “Wake him! He will help us destroy the Archmage! Then shall the way be clear to our final victory!”
X7-09 wakes, and enquires how the destruction of the Archmage may be accomplished.
“The Archmage has a secret facility under the Town Hall! Help us destroy it and surely the Archmage shall be discomfited!” says one robed figure.
“The dream was clear about that!” agrees the other. “Well, relatively clear. I think. Although I’m not sure why gherkins are involved.”
“You doubt the veracity of the Sacred Gherkins?”
“Never! I simply fail to understand their purpose.”
“Perhaps it is not for the likes of us to understand.”
After arriving at Dwardel, Balthazar stows his helmet and shield with the cart and, flying low with Lord Fluffington III, heads to the forest where he throws some meat into the middle of the road. Balthazar then sneaks up a tree to watch, leaving Fluffy in the middle of the road with a letter and a collar tied to his leg.
At length, Decanus Matteus Fulmens and his men approach cautiously through the gathering dusk. They approach the griffin with care and produce equipment; the griffin suffers them to muzzle and leash it, clearly they are familiar to it. Matteus recovers the letter and reads it aloud to his men.
“It’s addressed to the Duke of Glitterhaegen,” he begins. “Blah blah blah… You have my deepest apologies, a mistake occurred as my master Alron Stormwatcher told me to leave the city in the company of his companions using the mount waiting near your estate. However, I instead found the remains of my horse being devoured by a griffin with this collar. Assuming this was now my ride I set off in haste; it was only upon arriving in Dwardel that my master contacted me, making me aware of the error, and Fluffington must have gotten loose. I apologize and request your forgiveness. Yours Faithfully, Sir Balthazar Rook of Baron Stormwatcher’s personal guard.”
“What do you think, Decanus?” asks one of the marines. The Decanus frowns.
“We’re not being paid to think,” he says at length. “Caius, you know how to ride this thing, yes?” Caius nods. “Very well, take it back to the Duke; deliver the letter and collar to him as well. Explain to him what’s happened and ask for further orders; one of us will be here in a week’s time to guide you to wherever we are by then. We will continue to follow this group until ordered otherwise – I don’t know what His Grace wants us to do, and once we lose their trail we’ll never pick them up again.”
“Sir,” Caius acknowledges with a salute. He mounts the griffin and takes off.
“Galen,” says the Decanus, “Find us a camp site, close enough to scout this out in the morning and far enough away that whoever left the griffin doesn’t find us. No fire tonight, marines, but we’ll make up for it at the next village, I promise.”
Balthazar waits until he is certain they’ve gone, then slides carefully from the tree and makes his way back to town.
Further away, Hayes and Soreth have made camp. Hayes is now sporting a bearskin cloak with the head still attached, which he is wearing as a hat. He is thoughtfully chewing a raw turnip; Soreth has lit a fire with her breath weapon – one perhaps a little larger than intended – and is now biting pieces off a small, cute, furry, and still struggling forest creature.
A bear approaches, the gold chain of an envoy swinging about its neck. It rears up on its hind legs at a respectful distance and speaks.
“Good day traveller, are you the one known as Hayes? I have been sent as a messenger by the High Druid herself, to ask what may be given in exchange for the life of the Elf that wronged you. He is of interest to the High Druid and carries a power she would rather stay in this world. Is there any information the Druid can give you about herself or the Elf that would sway your thinking?”
Hayes grins and takes another bite of his turnip, considering his next move.
In the Library, Valore is reading the Book of the Creed, looking for references to things like hidden relics and whatnot, and also sends a letter to the main church of the Creed asking for a new priest for Dwardel. Boris and Pascal (X7-09’s chamaeleon, who is clearly more than he seems) are looking at the magic books left by previous generations of Artalins. Silmaria is learning Martyn Artalin’s improbably large collection of bawdy drinking songs, while Boris looks at the pictures and drools.
Everyone notices that Martyn spends most of his time in the Library. In conversation with him they learn that Marblehall is said to be haunted; during the plague which ended the 12th Age, part of the family walled themselves up to avoid infection – and starved to death, refusing to trust the wandering cleric who came to heal them because he was of lowly birth. Their ghosts still haunt the east wing.
Martyn remembers Casila before she was kidnapped as “a lovely young girl, very studious, perhaps a bit odd – likely because she spent more time with Amberlith than was seemly for one of her station, and picked up wild ideas”.
The Library itself has a wide range of books, but focuses on dwarven culture, Imperial history, geology, and salacious bardic songs – that last focus is due to Martyn.
By virtue of being in and around the Library a lot, and noticing what books go in and out of the Library when, the above party members notice that Casila is a voracious reader whose favourite topics are ancient history, arcane magical matters, and architecture.
In the estate grounds: The Fox aquires a warhorse and barding, then spends his time riding around the local area and inspecting the Artalins’ residence. He learns that the locals believe that there are orcs spying on them, no doubt finding out the lay of the land for the inevitable invasion by the Orc Lord, who is somewhere in the northern wilderness. Dour men in travel-stained cloaks sitting in shadowy corners of taverns swear this is so. Casila asks the group to conduct a sweep of the area and investigate this; bringing a couple of orcs in for interrogation would be ideal…