A Rise of the Runelords campaign journal that turned into a book

33. Gold, games and arrested dreams

7th of Neth – Wealday – 46th day in Varisia

Kaijitsu Manor, Magnimar

I was first up, and went to pick up something to break our fast from a nearby bakery. The others had rumbled in late, Alfred hollering bawdy songs, Harsk stumbling and cursing the furniture in the name of Iomedae and Alice sniggering at them both. I found them in differing states of mess around the house, and considered it completely appropriate to let Dûath wake Harsk by licking the remains of sausage from the cleric’s beard and face. It was Yap-Yap’s half-drunk, panicked scream that woke the rest. Too bad the pixie boy hadn’t drunk himself dead.

I wasn’t feeling that good either, to be honest. On the way back from the Temple, I had endured a horrible wave of head-aches that had almost driven me to my knees. It had felt as if my head had accomodated two minds at the same time. I had no idea what the sensation had been about – a thank you from Iomedae for my generosity regarding the candle, a paid wizard of House Horryn trying to squash my consciousness, or simply my head reacting to the shit I had seen in the past days. As I had no answers, I chose to dismiss it. A sore, bitten tongue and a throbbing forehead served as remainders of the strange experience.

Watching three pairs of red-rimmed eyes painfully make their way to the breakfast table did however help with my head-ache.

Harsk was last to sit, and as he did, the tiny head of Yap-Yap pushed out of his beard and puked on the table. “You’re cleaning that”, I said to both.

**

A barrel of water and two long rolls of fine rye bread sorted them out quickly enough and we managed to have a proper discussion about our next move. Despite having mainly focused on drinking, none of the others had heard any horrible news or rumours from Sandpoint. I imagined that had loosened their nerves to get properly fucked with good conscience. It was however time to visit Lord-Mayor Grobaras and inform him of the situation in Fort Rannick. Of course, we weren’t going to see the Mayor himself, but his trusty aide, administrator Eiko Carol, the kingmaker, as I called her. What I had gathered she was the good right hand of Grobaras who got things moving around Magnimar. She was more businesslike than the Mayor who was a pompous, self-serving douche, and talking with her was less waste of our time.

“I wonder how much they’ll pay us”, Alfred thought out loud, drinking something he called a ‘hangover leveler’ from Harsk’s unending tankard of ale. “She paid us 400 platinum per head last time”, Alice reminded us, the least hung-over of them. I nodded. This time, we’d deserve more. “I’d ask for at least 500, given what we did for the Black Arrows.”

As it happened, I was aiming all too low.

**

Eiko Carol had us sit and wait at a conference room in the Mayor’s mansion for over two hours before she deigned to offer us her attention. When she finally arrived, she acted busy and was absentminded. She was, however, most surprised to see us so early – while we told her about our quick means of return travel, I had to produce Commander Bayden’s notebook to prove we had actually went to Fort Rannick. Nevertheless, I told with Harsk the long story about Lucrezia, the ogres and the stone giants, concluding with the message we had found that detailed the attack against Sandpoint.

Eiko had not heard of any special news from Sandpoint either, which was good. It was my turn to be surprised about the apparent lack of concern the administrator had for the town’s wellbeing. She promised support and help for both Sandpoint and Fort Rannick, but it felt lacklustre. She had heard of Harsk’s dealings with the Temple and how they had sent support in form of paladins and considered that more than enough, but we knew that support consisted of only one or two paladins, and maybe a priest at best. It was looking awfully like the fate of Sandpoint was falling to our hands, again.

Before we left, there was gold to be discussed. Eiko started with the ‘normal fee’, but somehow Alfred of all people sang like a bluebird and convinced the administrator to double the fee, for all the effort and courage we had shown, annihilating a great danger to Magnimar’s borderlands.

The funny thing was that the moment she left to pick up the payment, we did not know what the ‘normal fee’ actually was. Maybe it was 200 platinum coins? Or 400?

I had to pick up my jaw from the floor when Eiko returned with four servants, each carrying a sack of 1500 platinum coins. Alfred almost went to kiss the politician.

**

While twice as wealthy from the night before, we did not let the gold get into our heads. We split up, Harsk going to the Temple to see his spiritual brethren, while the rest of us navigated to the Dockways. We wanted to get more news from Sandpoint, the more recent the better.

Sober now, and still remembering something from the previous evening, Alfred joked about the mysterious ‘mission’ Alice was doing for Garnet Alexandros.

“Well, mage, what are you up to?” He grinned at Alice as we walked down the hill to the Shore and the Dockways. “What do you mean?” Alice asked back, unable to mask the fact she knew very well what he was talking about.

The jolly sellsword poked her arm with his elbow. “You know, your mission”, he said, underlining the last word as if it was something exciting. She found something of interest on the points of her boots. “Well, it’s a long story”, she squirmed. For a woman who regularly poked and electrocuted vicious ogres and hags to death, she managed to look adorably sweet and girlish trying to evade the discussion. Alfred guffawed and turned the screw tighter. “Come on, humour us.”

She looked at him, and then me, and her shoulders sagged a bit. “I’m, or Garnet is, looking for something. She gave me a map when we sailed to Turtleback Ferry.” I immediately remembered the few maps I had taken from the ransacked Black Arrows’ library in Fort Rannick, about Viperwall, Riddleport and Lurkwood. “What’s Garnet after”, I probed gently. I wasn’t going to blurb where my secret maps led without getting something in return, afterall.

“I don’t know if I can tell you”, she told us, really wanting to leave the matter be. Not a chance, I thought, as the Dockways were still a five minutes’ walk away. “We can help you with your mission”, I tried, mustering all my honesty. I couldn’t have cared less for her mission, but it was Garnet’s scheme and I was damned if I was going to be an unwilling pawn in it. “Nah, I don’t think.. it’s really not your business”, she blurted and took quicker steps to leave us behind.

“Just tell us where the map is supposed to lead!” Alfred shouted to her back, but she did not answer.

**

Alfred, more concerned with Sandpoint than me or Alice, left to wander the Dockways for fresh news about the town. I bet he was just looking for an excuse to visit some taverns and get his drink on. Alice kept her distance, fazed by our slight interrogation, so I was free to look for a tannery. I was certain I’d get Dûath to wear light armour, but the problem was finding a piece designed for a full-grown panther.

At midday, the traffic at the Bazaar of Sails was at its peak. I took in the market, and tried to evaluate just how much wares and services were in sale there in a given moment, and then compared it to what I had seen at Garnet’s secret storeroom. The former eclipsed the latter of course, but not by a large margin. With such resources and wealth behind her, she was indeed a princess of the market. I wondered if she felt she was being particularly obliging by serving us herself rather than letting us deal through a nameless shopkeeper. For whatever reason, she thought we were worth her personal attention.

After a short search I found a tannery of my liking, run by an older, dignified master who spoke bad Common. His Varisian was even worse. After a lot of pointing and speaking loudly I got through my intention for a master-wraught leather armor, and he took measurements of Dûath as if my panther was a normal person. “Thirty minute, sir”, he said, and showed me ten fingers. Right. I nodded thrice slowly like he was a bit soft in the head and excused myself.

Destiny herself took me to the best freshly baked applepie I had ever tasted in my life while I was loitering around the bazaar, looking for the others. I had my mouth and both hands full when I stumbled to Harsk.

“Mmwzsh nmmple?” I asked the cleric. He narrowed his eyes. “Come again?” Always so polite.

I swallowed. “How was the Temple?” I repeated, somewhat clearer.

A shadow fell to the righteous dwarf’s eyes and he sighed. “The paladin Adelbert Steiner has departed to Sandpoint – right after we traveled up river. Commander Valentine has not heard anything of him or the town.”

“But that’s good news, right?” I asked and bit another mouthful of the applepie. Harsk just shook his head wearily. “That’s no news – and no news might mean bad things in itself.” He was of course right. But damn it was good applepie.

Half an hour passed and I felt certain enough to return to the tanner. The old master was ready, and I exchanged his work of art for thirty platinum coins. Minutes later we caught up with Alfred and Alice too. Already tipsy, the sellsword reported that he had not heard anything of interest about Sandpoint. Captain Jack, the merchant who had given us a ride a few times and who traveled back and forth between Sandpoint and Magnimar, had left for the fishing town early that morning. From that we smartly deduced that Sandpoint had been there the day before. We would have nothing to worry about if he’d arrive the next morning as usual.

Feeling sudden, unexpected camaderie, I offered some of the pie to the others (I had the entire pie in my backpack), but luckily no-one wanted a piece. For a moment I felt the pie represented my tactical counsel during our fights given how lightly they always dismissed that too. I stuffed my mouth and choked my somber thoughts with delicious cinnamon and sugar pastry.

Instead, as we made our way west towards the Mage Tower were we all had business to take care of, Harsk tried to cheer himself up by talking with Alfred about the batch of beer he that was brewing back at Sandpoint. “We have to taste it when we get there”, he decided, looking thisty and dreamy at the same time – no minor feat. Alfred burped and nodded.

“What is it with you two, don’t you have anything else in your mind than beer, Harsk, and your whores, Alfred?” I wondered aloud. Alfred guffawed as he always did, not ashamed at all, while Harsk just shrugged innocently. This made me want to poke the righteous dwarf a bit.

“How is your conscience, cleric, still drowning you?” I asked, playfully ruffling his feathers. But instead of snapping at me, Harsk just looked up at the sky. “I’ve prayed forgiveness for my actions every day”, he began and I sighed inwardly. What happened was not his fault. “And I talked about it with Commander Valentine, and he was certain Iomedae has forgiven me. Valentine told me that our goddess is understanding of collateral victims in times of war.. that they are inevitable.” The cleric hated admitting it – he was lawful and good to the core. I wondered if I saw a glimpse of doubt in his eyes. A contradiction rusting his iron faith?

“So”, I asked him, “Iomedae is a realistic, pragmatic goddess afterall?”

“She is a good goddess”, the dwarf muttered mostly to himself and fell into his thoughts.

**

This time, Alice the mage school dropout actually entered the Mage Tower with us. We were all having our armor and weapons’ enchantments strengthened, so that they would serve us better in combat.

I made some eyebrows hit the roof when I unsheathed my gladii, handed over the Carmine Avenger and got out of my dark mithral armor. I felt very naked.

“The enchantments take four days? Four days? Are you insane, Alpharius?” Alfred asked me bluntly as I left my equipment for the wizards to work their magic on. “Are you going to sit around doing nothing for that time? We don’t know when the giants reach Sandpoint!”

I shrugged. I had the feeling I could postpone my departure by that time. Besides, I was fucking rich and I didn’t know when I’d get another chance to have my equipment improved in this magnitude. I wanted my adamantine gladius to be a bane to the giantkind, and my other gladius to strike with the power of lightning (I admit, something I had picked from Alice), while my bow was to be able to adjust to my strength and my armor improved with stronger magical protection and the ability to make me damn-near impossible to spot. In addition, I left Dûath’s brand-new leather armor to the wizards – my panther deserved some magical protection too.

I considered the sellsword’s point. His and Harsk’s upgrades took less than two days. Two days, four days – what did it matter? Anyways, I was committed. As I didn’t rise to the argument, the sellsword just shook his head and muttered to himself.

Alice was being served after me. She coughed and handed out her scimitar, asking for stronger enchantments. The old wizard working on the counter checked the sword and then looked at her quizzically.

“Haven’t you been a student here?” He asked her and narrowed his eyes. With her body language, she could have held a huge sign that said YES. “..No, I haven’t?” She squirmed, the lie sour in her mouth.

“Hmm…” The old wizard kept examining Alice. She again found something of interest on the points of her boots. “Hmmmmmmm…”

Finally, the wizard relented. “Come back after five days”, he said, pushing a magical piece of paper towards her. “Sign here, please.”

I pointed Alice at the others, feigning surprise. I guess I’m not the only one not leaving in a hurry.”

**

Having nothing better to do, we ventured back to the Dockways to our tavern of choice, the Quick Fox, to enjoy some late lunch. That day, the cook had prepared creamy salmon soup. It was heavenly.

“I’ve been thinking”, Alfred started as he slammed the second empty pint to the table and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, “about participating in the fighting games at the hippodrome. As we wait, that is.” Across the table to him I almost spat the cider and bits of potato I had in my mouth. That was absurd. I had tried the same only a month ago, and failed miserably. He was nearly a local, didn’t he know better of the Serpent’s Run?

I swallowed and shook my head, a wolfish grin flashing. “Don’t you know you need sponsors to get into the games?”

Alfred just smiled widely. “But I have a sponsor!”

I leaned over the table and regarded him under my hood. “Trust me, neither Lord-Mayor Grobaras or Eiko Carol are willing sponsors.” The sellsword gestured dismissively. “Nah, I’m talking about Alexandros!” He had a fair point. I still laughed. “Do you really think she’ll say yes, or that she’s even sponsor material? One has to be well-known and respected.” Well-known she might had been, even wealthy enough, but respected among the pompous elite of Magnimar? Give me a break.

“I’m still going to ask her”, Alfred said, crossing his arms on his chest. I just grinned and shook my head in disbelief. “You do that. And I promise I’ll be there laughing my arse off when she shoots your dreams down.”

**

“What? Absolutely not! Are you crazy?”

Told you so.

Garnet was laughing like it was the worst idea she had heard in a while. But then she turned grim. “The games are rubbish. Entertainment to the mindless mob, to keep them in line and unaware of the real issues. They are nothing but exploitation of slaves.”

Her last word felt like a poke of hot iron into my heart. My left hand went to touch the small tattoo at the inside of my right wrist. My brand. A reminder of my past.

“Besides”, the swindler princess continued her lecture to Alfred, “there are easier ways to earn gold.”

“Not all fight for gold”, I muttered, lost in my memories. I had grown up watching, training and fighting with gladiators. Horryn’s had all been slaves. Not one had been a volunteer, or a paid fighter. This made them a vicious, relentless, aggressive, awful bunch. Remarkably talented. Fearsomely deadly. I had not liked them, but by Starfall I had admired them. Thanks to them, I carried two gladius blades to battle.

Garnet snorted. “Bah. Slaves killing each other for the joy and pleasure of the rich.”

“Things of course always have two sides”, I admitted, to myself really. I hated slavedom, and despised slavers, but it had a magic of its own when two fighters clashed and shed blood for glory on the sand of the arena.

**

In the end, we still went to the hippodrome to watch the games. I sold my cloak of elvenkind for a bad price at the markets, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to get rid of it because my armor would have soon serve its purpose, leaving me with the opportunity get a new cloak later.

From the outside, the Serpent’s Run was as majestic and awe-inspiring as the last time I had visited it. Alice had not come, having chosen to spend time with Garnet instead. Apparently, Alfred had really not ever visited the place, so I dragged him by the shoulder to the queue for the wealthier visitors. After hearing the price of admission, Harsk became uncertain and was turning towards the queue for the mob.

“Dwarf, that line is for standing places only. Do you really think you’ll see something from there?” I shouted. Harsk stopped and murmured something under his breath. “I don’t think I’m willing to pay ten gold pieces to see slaughter. I’ve seen enough during the past days.”

I regarded him and smiled, almost friendly. How unusual, I thought. The cleric brought something out in me, something that never saw daylight. Friendship? “I’ll pay for your admission. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it. It’s great entertainment.”

“Does good defeat evil here?” He asked, the notion almost childish if I hadn’t known him better. The friendly, honest smile never left my face. “I don’t know, but here, the stronger always defeats the weaker.”

“But does justice always prevail here?” He pushed on. I shrugged.

“Sometimes it does, sometimes it does not.”

**

We were lucky. Wealday afternoons showcased single combat events, which interested me much more than the bull-killing matches I had seen previously. To be exact, the games started with a straight-forward elimination games, where a dozen fighters of different size and race entered the arena unarmed, and at the blow of a horn, random weapons were thrown over the side to the sand. Upon the sound, the fighters scrambled into action. Lucky ones went for the weapons. The slowest died. The quickest killed without weapons. I saw a Mian monk move like a cat and cave one man’s face in with a kick right after snapping the neck of his first target. The crowd loved it all. From Harsk’s beard, Yap-Yap emerged, took one good look at what was happening, shrieked in panic and disappeared.

In the end, there were only two. A Chelaxian brute with a spear against the flashy monk. He tried to keep the monk at bay with sudden thrusts, but the Mian effortlessly pushed the attacks aside or evaded them altogether. He still wielded no weapons. The Chelaxian was tired, and tried one last desperate lunge. The monk saw it coming, leaped at the right moment and stepped on the shaft, breaking it in half.

The brute had the time to register the loss of his weapon before the monk hammered half a dozen punches into his face. The stands erupted in wild cheers and adolation, sending shivers down my spine and making the hair on my skin rise. The roar was unreal, almost physical. A gladiator had once told me he’d have the love of the crowd over any amount of gold. I understood why.

I guess the hippodrome clerics were a bit amazed by the performance as well as they were slow to recover the brute. Before they could get to him, he perished to his wounds, and the ringmaster ran to the center of the arena. Spiteful laughter bellowed from the stands. Sitting next to me, Harsk narrowed his eyes critically – I don’t think he liked how the clerics handled themselves. “Not my brethren”, the dwarf clarified as a side note. The monk, bleeding from small cuts but otherwise unharmed, slowly prowled around the circular fighting ground when the ringmaster began to address the crowd with an eager baritone. “Has the loser earned a resurrection? Has he your respect to live again? IS HE WORTHY?” His shouted questions were met with emphatic boos and gestures of slitting throats.

Alfred wasn’t really enjoying himself. I didn’t know whether it was due to not being able to participate or because of the quality of the fights themselves. “Second-grade. They wouldn’t had lasted a second in a real fight”, he judged the maimed contestants. I laughed at him. He was right of course, the other eleven had been slow night’s cattle for the monk’s slaughter. “Indeed. Our match back at Sandpoint was much more exciting”, I joked. Alfred just smiled wordlessly and watched as slaves started to drag the dead bodies away.

The games continued until early evening. We left before sunfall, went by the Mage Tower to pick up Carmine Avenger and Alfred’s spiked shield, and returned to Kaijitsu Manor for supper.

**

In the middle of the night, I woke up with a startle. The strange head aches and sensations had returned. I felt it clearly now, a second consciousness in my head, poking around, whispering questions to my secret, subconscious thoughts.

whathaveyouseenwhoiscomingwhereareyouwhoareyouwhenwhyhowwhat

I snapped my eyes shut and focused my iron will. I wanted the intruder out of my head before it would find answers it sought. And, with a thought, it vanished, taken like a leaf by the storm wind.

But I wasn’t satisfied. I threw the sheets off my body and scrambled to the only window to my room. Was the intruder outside, looking at me? Did he even need to see me to pry my mind open? But I saw and heard nothing. Outside were only the few trees of the yard stirring and croaking, and the city, and the half-moon night. I remained there, unmoving, gazing, for a moment. Finally, I relented and returned to my bed.

**

Over breakfast, Harsk revealed that someone had tried to force his or her way into his head during the previous night. I admitted experiencing the same, and offered my assumption that the intruder could do his magics from afar. Alice and Alfred had not felt anything strange, but it didn’t mean anything, Harsk explained us.

“Who could it be?” I asked, trying to consider the options as I flung a piece of bacon for Dûath. We had made quite a mess of the underworld of Magnimar, so we were bound to attract some interest, even though we had kept a low profile. Maybe it was linked to the Brotherhood of Seven? “It doesn’t have to be a malicious person”, Alice pointed out, “maybe its someone trying to contact us, ask for help perhaps?” I did not buy it.

Harsk was full of resolve. “This cannot continue. We have to get protection.”

The damned pixie thought he was entitled to an opinion. “You should try invisibility!” He suggested, peeking from the dwarfs armor and covering his eyes with his hand. Harsk lowered his gaze and regarded Yap-Yap. “You should try not thinking at all”, he suggested dryly in response. This made the pixie boy smile. “Done!” He hollered cheerily,then gave a blank face and dove back under the cleric’s armour.

We agreed unanimously that the Temple was our best bet of trying to get help quickly.

However, the followers of Iomedae did not deliver. The priest Harsk sought for help could only offer his prayer to the goddess as a solution. That both irritated and amused me – Harsk probably had a better connection to their goddess than the priest, so why should he bother?

The Mage Tower was as useless. The wizards identified the spell immediately, and offered talismans to fend off the intrusions, but for a price of hundreds of thousands of gold pieces.

Chagrined and without any added security for our thoughts, we headed out to the Dockways again for news. Captain Jack and the Tall and Handsome had arrived. Was Sandpoint still there, unraided?

We found the ship and its captain with little effort. I noted how I didn’t recognize any of the crew – I guess the water elementals had taken their share.

When we boarded, Jack was emptying a bottle of rum, leaning to the steering wheel. He was absolutely, positively drunk.

“Oh holy Cayden Cailean, they have home delivery whores nowadays”, he exclaimed with drunken excitement as he spotted Alice. She shot him a murderous glance, which he completely missed and took a step forward off the rudder, his hands reaching for the mage’s breasts. Lucky for him, he tripped on his own foot and fell.

“She’s not those girls”, Alfred guffawed and helped him to his feet. “Oh”, Jack managed and looked at Alfred cross-eyed. “My friend!” He clasped the sellsword’s shoulders and shook him. “Do you”, he began and stopped to belch, “have any booze with you old mate, you.. you old hound?” Alfred just tapped the captain’s cheek lightly. “I think you’ve had enough for the morning. We need to ask you something.”

Harsk took over. “Any news from Sandpoint, captain”, he growled. Jack let go off Alfred and turned to the dwarf. His eyes went wild. “Ooooh! Dragons, death and terrified children and women! Their screams pierce the night! Blackness! Eternal night!” Harsk’s jaw dropped, and I furrowed. Curses, the attack had begun? Had Jack fled the horrors, and drowned the nightmare with rum?

Then he started to laugh and seemed to sober up a bit. “What, you thought the place is really besieged by damned dragons? Come on. The old seer bitch is just spouting nonsense about”, another belch, “her portents of an army of giants approaching with a dragon.” Harsk sighed in relief, and both Alice and Alfred seemed to relax a bit, though neither was pleased of the captain’s antics.

I remembered the old seer, Mvashti. She had harassed Ilori with her dubious visions. But her latest portents were another evidence of the coming assault. The giants were truly coming to Sandpoint, with a godsdamned dragon.

Jack, now run out of booze to consume, turned to curse and order his crew, and left us to consider our next move. Both Harsk and Alfred were eager to return to Sandpoint the same day, when the Tall and Handsome sailed again. I and Alice could’ve joined them, but that would’ve meant leaving my armor and my other gladius behind, which I wasn’t in any situation willing to do. Alice’s scimitar – her weapon of choice – was also still being enchanted, and she wasn’t keen on going either.

I admitted openly that Sandpoint should be warned in advance, so ultimately we chose to split up. Harsk and Alfred would travel that evening, and I and Alice would come at the earliest possible time.

**

I visited the Mage Tower again briefly, and picked up Dûath’s leather armor along with my adamantine gladius, bane of giants. “The blade will turn dark, almost black, when you strike the giantkind with it”, the old wizard at the counter explained as he offered the sword to me gently by two hands. The blade still shivered with enchanted energies, like before. It looked exactly like I had left it, but then again, I have no ability to detect magic. “You’ve tried it?” I asked him. He just glanced at me, uncertain if I was joking or honestly asking him. I never got a response.

**

Before their departure, Harsk wanted to go to the temple to ask for reinforcements, so we went. The stout cleric had apparently made a great impression with the Commander of the paladins, as Valentine outright believed what he said about the threat of giants and promised him a handful of promising paladin-noviates and priests as additional company. Also, he showed no concern about the holy relic sword Harsk just had happened to run into in the Dockways. The honest soul had given it to the Commander for examination, but the Temple archivists had not found any notes or information about it.

Surely, Harsk was the best person to wield it, and the Commander would’ve been a fool to deny the sword from him. He hadn’t seen the dwarf in action, bringing the holy wrath of his goddess upon her enemies.

As Harsk had his chat with Valentine, I took out the Syrpent’s Tane and started to browse its pages. I remembered reading something about the dragons of Varisia, and maybe the ancient tome could help us prepare for the dragon.

I found what I was looking for, and read aloud. “.. it is notable that there are quite few black dragons in the region of Mushfens, surprising given how the type normally prefers such conditions.” I hopped a paragraph. There. “.. the Storval Plateau has large numbers of red dragons. These creatures are defined by their blazing, stubborn characters and the ability to use fire as their natural weapon.” Storval Plateau. Razmus had told us that was where the cursed city of stone giants, Jorgenfist was. That was where the giants were coming from.

I lifted by head from the tome and realized the others were watching me intently. “So you’re saying it’s a red dragon we’re up against”, the sellsword concluded. I nodded. “That’s what I’d assume.”

“And fire. We can prepare for that”, Harsk murmured. He could protect us from energies of different kinds, including fire. It would be helpful.

We stopped by the Pathfinder Society, just to make sure we could not unearth any more useful information about the stone giants or red dragons, but we managed just to waste our time. Despite looking for a lucid person within the Society this time, the scholar we found, a loud-mouth who introduced himself as the expert on red dragons and giants in particular only wanted to tell us about the mating habits of brown yaks living in the Storval Plateau. These people are completely useless, I cringed as I made a hasty exit.

**

Afternoon was falling and Harsk and Alfred were hurrying to the Dockways. They gathered their belongings and we said goodbyes at the Kaijitsu Manor.

“Message us if the attack is imminent”, I told Harsk as we clasped our hands by the arms. We had agreed to a magical transmission of thoughts that Harsk knew how to perform, where we could momentarily share thoughts. “I will”, the cleric promised. “But not during night times, if you can”, I added. I might think it was another assault against my mind. He nodded, understanding what I was implying, and I shook hands with Alfred as well. “Be safe. See you in a few days”, I said in way of farewell, and they left.

Alice did not linger and took off too, to take care of whatever business she had. I went outside where Dûath was lounging, and started to try the armor on him. “Let’s see if this fits you”, I said to my animal companion.

**

I trained with Dûath for three days, and aimlessly wandered the streets of Magnimar searching for clues about my brother. No messages came from Harsk, so I assumed they were preparing the town for the attack and waiting for the hammer to fall.

Finally, on the 10th of Neth, my second gladius and my mithral armor were ready, the former crackling with the powers of thunder and the latter difficult to focus one’s eyes on. I donned the armor, sheathed my gladius and marched to the Dockways.

Sandpoint awaited me.

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