After a bit of discussion, Crono and Trinkstein decided to return to the library at the Magistus Arcantheum to try and discover some information about the names hinted at in the note they had found earlier. This time, their research was much more rewarding.
While they couldn’t find anything specific about Podif’s well, they stumbled across a reference to an obscure, explorer named Samman Podif, who lived in ancient Dalar. He had spent much of his life researching, and searching for extra-dimensional portals. It was mentioned that he had perhaps found a portal or two that was ancient even by his reckoning, possibly predating the creation of mortals.
They also luckily stumbled across a brief mention of the name Amarindul. In the journal of a sage over 200 years old, Amarindul was recorded as one of the offspring of Vostrakhan, a then-notorious blue dragon that preyed on Dalaran wizards and citizens.
Satisfied by their research, they returned to the inn and rejoined their companions. Shivra and Stravo decided to do some less scholarly research of their own. The poison used in the assassination attempts of Serida Bonhart and Barristan Hark, Ground Thassil Root, was very rare. Perhaps those in the city with less lawful backgrounds would know who to talk to about it, or where to get it.
After talking to a few of the locals, Stravo discovered that the Guilded Dagger Gambling Hall was known to be a shady establishment where disreputable folk often met. The drow and half-elf left their companions behind, and made their way across the city, eventually finding the gambling hall. It looked like a fairly non-descript building, perhaps an old warehouse that had been converted into a slightly shabby place of business. On the street outside, a few cloaked figures leaned against the nearby buildings, and both the rogue and bard could feel the weight of many stares upon them.
A group of masssively muscled half-orcs acting as bouncers warned Stravo and Shivra to watch themselves. Any act of agression, or attempt to cheat the games, would result in at least the duo getting thrown out, but the half-orcs hinted that the actual punishment would likely be much worse. Stravo nodded in understanding and gave his assurance that they would cause no trouble. The bouncers snorted, but stood aside to let them pass.
Inside, there was a bar and small dining area to one side, next to a much larger room filled with gambling tables. There was a constant low murmur of people talking in hushed tones, accompanied by the tumbling of dice, the shuffling of cards, and the clinking of coins. Stravo and Shivra casually made their way to the bar, purchased a few drinks, and began to talk with the bartender. The drow remained hooded and cloaked, but many of the other patrons were similarly secretive, so the rogue did not stand out.
The bartender seemed unfazed when Shivra mentioned she was looking for Ground Thassil Root. He informed them he could likely get them a small supply, but refused to divulge his source. The bartender commented that much of their store of ground root was bought out a few weeks ago, by a group of six tieflings that had passed through town. He couldn’t tell them any more about the tieflings, where they came from, or where they went, but told the duo that perhaps the town guardsmen who were on duty might know. Tieflings weren’t common, so the guard would likely remember a group that large.
Stravo thanked the bartender and gave him a generous tip. On her way out, Shivra asked if the bartender knew anyone who might be able to find more information within the city. The bartender smiled and told her he would contact someone who could do the job. But to set up the contract, the person would find her.
Stravo and Shivra returned to the inn that served as their base of operations. The bard would next go to the city gates, but this time, Crono would join him. The half-elf and eladrin left their companions and made their way to the gates to talk to the night watch.
The guardsmen manning the gate were talkative and forthcoming with Stravo and Crono, readily disclosing that they did indeed remember the group of tieflings pass through, nearly 3 weeks ago. A bit of insight and some probing questions revealed that the tieflings essentially bribed the guards. The guardsmen did not record the tieflings names, did not search them thoroughly, and did not have them followed. Crono was able to determine that despite the guardsmen’s incompetence, they weren’t being evil, just acting foolish and lazy. After their ineptitude was laid bare, the guardsmen swore to redouble their vigilance and follow protocol much more strictly. Before the bard and swordmage left, the guards told them that a few days after they arrived, a group of four tieflings left. What happened to the other two, they did not know.
Crono and Stravo returned to their friends and recounted the news. As the group were deep in discussion, they were approached by a cloaked man who apparently had been sitting in the common room with them for quite some time. He introduced himself simply as Kel, the informant that they had asked to meet with. After a bit of haggling, they agreed to a deal. Kel and his associates would scour the city and find any remaining tiefling assassins or discover where they went. If they were still inside the city walls, he would have them followed. In return, the party would pay him 500 gold, plus an additional 50 gold for each week he had to continue to follow the tieflings. He or one of his associates would get in to contact with them within 24 hours of the next time they returned to Hawkstone. They agreed to the terms, and Kel bid them farewell, quickly disappearing into the night. Tired from the previous day’s activities, the party returned to their rooms to rest for the night.
After a brief discussion the next morning, the party agreed that they needed to return to the Malachite Fortress. They would travel via ship to Westreach, then travel south to get to the Redstone Hills, with the fortress soon after.
Before they left, Trinkstein went to pay his respects and leave a small offering at the shrine to Moradin. An elderly priest there warned the dwarf invoker that he had a premonition the night before. The forces of evil were growing in these lands, and some of these forces sought to destroy something Moradin had created. Trinkstein pondered this, as it could be interpreted in many different ways. He thanked the old priest for his insight, and the entire party made their way down to the docks, to find passage on a ship to Westreach.
The voyage to Westreach took nearly a full day, and it was evening by the time the ship arrived at its destination. As the ship made anchor and was moored, the party went above deck and caught their first glimpse of the settlement. The night was clear, and the autumn moon shone down brightly on the harbor town.
Westreach was once prosperous, but had obviously come upon rough times. Much of the city was dark and abandoned, with many neglected buildings gradually succumbing to the ravages of time and disrepair. Maybe a third of the city was still lit by torches and lanterns and still looked inhabited. The party disembarked, and made their way onto a street illuminated by lanterns, looking for an inn.
Not far from the docks, they came across a dimly lit establishment. The faded painting of a mermaid on the weather-beaten sign above the door proclaimed it The Smiling Siren. Crono shrugged, opened the door and entered, and the rest of the party followed the eladrin inside.
Inside, the fire burning in the common room hearth did little to dispel the darkness that clung to the edges of the room. The light from a few sputtering torches offered little illumination as well. The common room was filled with tables, surrounded by chairs, but maybe a quarter of the chairs were actually occupied. Behind the bar, a muscular dragonborn eyed the party cautiously, giving them a polite nod. As they sat at a table, a tired-looking barmaid hurried to take their order.
After a round of drinks, the party rented a couple of rooms for the night. The next morning, the group talked to a few people in the inn’s common room and found the house where Lyris and her parents lived. They talked to the half-elf wizard for a while, discussing their plans. They inquired about the way to the Malachite Fortress and Lyris told them all she knew of it, as well as a bit of the region’s history.
Once, there was a great eladrin city further inland, named Tir Kitor. The eladrin had a mutually beneficial alliance with the dwarves of the Malachite Fortress. They built a road between the two settlements and together, they created many wonderous works of art and magical power. They used Westreach as a shipping point for exporting their goods, and in turn, the human port town prospered and grew.
For some unknown reason, contact with both the Malachite Fortress and Tir Kitor abruptly stopped. One week the trade wagons were arriving, laden with items of exquisite workmanship, the next week, nothing. Many expeditions set out to discover what happened to the two cities, but few ever returned. The handful that returned could only report that they found the settlements abandoned and ruined and that they dared not enter to discover more. They wove tales of undead and worse monsters roaming the blasted and deserted streets of Tir Kitor and all should avoid the cursed place.
As the trade disappeared, so too did the prosperity of Westreach. Merchants, craftsmen, and others had no reason to stay, and hundreds of them left on each ship. In time, only a small fraction of the city’s once thriving population remained. Lyris ended her tale with a warning, that the citizens of Westreach avoid the ruins of Tir Kitor at all cost.
Stravo smiled at the wizard’s warning, but reassured her that they had defeated many terrible creatures. Their destination was the Malachite Fortress, and so might bypass the ruined eladrin city altogether anyway. Lyris nodded and bid them farewell, and the party headed out of town, to return to the dwarven fortress in the south.
The adventurers traveled for the rest of the day. Malroc was unnerved, moreso when he realized that the forest was unnaturally quiet. He kept a hand within easy reach of his axe, but no threat showed itself. Eventually, nightfall arrived, and the companions stopped to make camp.
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