Columbus Gaming Group

Barakus Campaign

Treasures, Treasures

June 23, 2265 Old Empire

Warm sunlight and a playful Arinera woke Dibly the next morning. And so it went that he didnít find his way back to the Kingís Road until after the noon hour had passed. He looked for his companions until he found them in the largest of their rented rooms in the inn.

Arrayed about the floor were the treasures and wealth of their latest adventures. Dibly smiled at the sight as he always did. This is what heíd been dreaming about since heíd heard the stories of Jack LeStrange and the Crimson Band as a child. Gleaming treasures, piles of coins, mystic artifacts, and fine weaponry.

Anya gave Dibly a raised eyebrow as he entered. "Where is your drinking buddy?"

"Seems he didnít get any sleep last night so heís in his room now," said Dibly clearing his throat. Apparently, Bull hadnít listened to Diblyís speech at the whorehouse, though heíd heard no complaints from the girls.

Dibly sat on the floor with his legs folded and looked across the items laid out before them.

Three large leather sacks held all the coins they had brought back. A mixture of strangely minted pieces of silver and gold filled the bags. Each had had a look at the writing on the coins but none could decipher it. Next to the bags was a small black velvet bag holding the gemstones.

Among the weapons there was an elaborate quiver filled with crossbow bolts. The bolts had lush purple fletchings which looked freshly plucked from whatever elegant bird theyíd come from. Most arrows left in dank tombs for hundreds of years or more would have become useless, but these had truly held up. Each of the party had the opportunity to inspect them closely, looking for clues as to their nature or origin. Anya suspected that they had been enchanted due to the fine, faint symbology on the shafts.

As the only member with the proper crossbow, Ventros picked up the quiver of bolts and set it behind himself.

Anya had been carrying another ranged weapon they had uncovered. It was a large bow and it took particular effort to draw. Anya was surprisingly strong and could draw the string back, though others, like Dibly, couldnít budge the thick cords. While it was also a fine weapon and had its own enchantments, they agreed that it would be better sold to buy more necessary things. The same decision was made regarding the heavy crossbow they had recovered. It was an amazing weapon, causing bolts placed in it to burst into flame in flight, and Ventros thought long and hard about keeping it. In the end, Mitsu convinced him that it too could be sold for a fine price to buy use more mundane but necessary things.

Two shields had been found in the tombs, each in the mausoleum of a knight or other honored warrior. One shield had been made of fine, overlapped bands of wood and adorned with edges of steel and the symbol of a green dragon. The other was made of bands of iron, again themselves bound in steel, but with a simply icon of three upraised fists on a field of red. Ventros could use a shield the best and the steel version moved into his pile behind him.

Dibly had yet to figure out the mystery of the disappearing sword. In their first foray into the tombs, they had come across a sarcophagus in the upper levels, inside which was a warrior with a fine, bejeweled sword. Dibly had still been afraid of upseting the dead at that time and they had left it there. When theyíd returned the second time, the sword was missing. He guessed that the hobgoblins had gotten their courage up to explore the tombs better and grabbed it, though he didnít think it likely.

Next was a variety of bottles, vials, and jugs that theyíd assembled in a wicker basket. Each container appeared to hold a liquid of some sort. Some were emblazoned with writing and strange symbols while others were blank or their writing had faded away.

"I believe it best that we confer with a knowledgeable person about the nature of these draughts," said Anya. "I could use my magics but it was take us days and Iím hoping a local sage might impart more clues than I would discern." It was quickly agreed and Anya put the potions aside. A small wooden ring inscribed in some ancient tongue was soon added to the basket.

Next was a pile of scrollcases. Each scrollcase contained one or more sheets of vellum. Anya appeared confident that the scrollcases themselves were harmless, although Dibly winced as she pulled the first scroll out.

"Ahhh, Ďtwould seem this contains magical writing. The beginning of an incantation I think," said Anya as she peered at just the first few inches of the scroll, not opening it further. "This one appears to allow a wizard to summon a host of vermin, rats or perhaps spiders, depending I suppose on where you were when you cast it."

"Lovely, thatís just what we need," groaned Dibly. "More biting rats and spiders!" The others laughed at his overdone despair. Anya smiled, slipped the scroll back into its case and lifted the next one.

The scrolls each contained spells. There were spells for bathing the casterís hands in fire that could burn their enemies, spells for creating a thick wall of solid ice from nothing, blocking enemies or bridging chasms. One spell would allow Anya to summon a creature to fight for them, while another could deflect all arrows shot at her.

Most of the scrolls appeared to be for wizards, although three cases contained ones that Anya could not understand. Ventros looked at them and found them to be basic prayers and chants, spells from the divine. Anya would take the time to add the new spells to her spellbook while Ventros would keep his scrolls to cast in times when his own casting abilities were drained.

The last collection of items was the most interesting. The largest item was the black silk cloak that Mitsu had used to climb walls like a spider. He believed it could do even more than that with its silvery web design covering the outer layer of the cloak, but, like many other things, he believed it would be best sold in order to buy more needed things.

On the spiderís cloak lay an amulet, a pair of fine gloves, a wand, and an ivory feather. On their trip back from the tombs, Anya had been able to decipher the inscriptions on the wand and was pleased to discovered that it was a Wand of Magic Missiles, those small balls of fire that she could throw that unerringly struck their target. From what she could tell, the wand had been crafted by a talented wizard named Hukelo and that three balls of fire would burst forth each time she said the proper magic word. She formally lifted it off the pile and slipped it into her cloak.

The gloves were well-made and the leather showed no signs of age, though they did appear scuffed from good use. On the back of the left glove was the image of sea waves while on the back of the right was the image of mountaintops. They supposed that the gloves could help you climb or swim, but these didnít seem important, so it was left in the center of the pile.

The feather was an odd little thing. It was a fine sculpture of a swanís feather made of ivory and inscribed in black with the image of a mature oak tree. Anya shrugged her shoulders and it was added to the basket.

Lastly sat the amulet. It had been carved of bone and hung from a neck-chain made of iron links. It appeared to be a balled fist, but the carving had been flattened so that it was no more than an inch thick where the knuckles lay. It was almost like a dead manís hand that had shrunken with time.

No one was eager to put such an eerie amulet on, so Anya added it to the wicker basket.

DIBLY AND ANYA

"Now all we have to find it someone who is learned enough to identify them and wealthy enough to buy them," concluded Anya as they stood.

"I think I know just where to go. Iíll help you," said Dibly. They gathered the items they wished to sell along with a heavy pouch of the coins and several empty sacks.

Dibly was already straining under the weight of the weapons by the time they left the Kingís so Anya took most of the load. Before reaching the city gate, Anya hid the most expensive items on her person and then strode confidently up to the guards.

"We wish to enter to trade," she said simply. Dibly looked but didnít see any of the friends heíd made over the past weeks on duty. Anya plainly showed the stuff they couldnít hide and Dibly prepared to pay the tariff. One guard looked like he wanted to search the bulky cloak that Anya was wearing, but she gave him a withering glare and he abandoned all hope of touching her.

The damage wasnít as bad as it could have been, but Dibly was still depressed at having paid out so much to the local lords.

"We could have snuck them over the wall at night... or something!" he complained as they headed into the crowded streets.

"Hush, Dibs, better to be seen paying fair taxes on some than be caught evading taxes for all. Now where is this market you spoke of?"

Dibly grinned, his enthusiasm renewed. He was sure that Anya would find the Glimrmarkt as fascinating as he had. And there were sure to be people there who would be able to identify the goodies in their basket.

They walked through broad avenues and cut along alleys toward the docks and the Viktlmarkt. It was a hot day, even for June, so they allowed themselves an indulgence. They took a seat at one of the tables set outside a taphouse. Anya found a local vintage she could tolerate a glass of while Dibly reveled in a mug of ale chilled to iciness.

"I wonder if they still have ice from the winter in there or if this is magic," mused Dibly as he held the chill mug to his forehead. "Not that it matters. Ah sweet nectar," he said before quaffing half the mug at once.

"Why do you enjoy that swill so much?" asked Anya, her head cocked to show curiosity.

"Well, it slays my thirst, warms my blood, and lightens my head. Not much else can do all that for a silver a pint," replied Dibly. "Why donít you try it?"

"I have. It is all bad-tasting water to me. Even your wines are put a pale imitation of true elven wine. If you and I were to share a bottle vinted under the grand oaks of my homeland, then you would know true nectar."

"You know, I think Iíd like that," said Dibly, looking at Anya fully. She was a quiet person, though easy with jest and wild in battle. As so many others did, Dibly had seen the parts of her that seemed the most human, the parts that were the easiest to see. Heíd overlooked her elvish nature. So now, he took the time. Anya did not seem annoyed by the attention, for now.

Anya was slender and had long facial features that humans found almost universally attractive. Her hair was like spun silver and her eyes flashed with a pale purple color. She was always watchful of her surroundings, though when she spoke with someone, she treated them like the only person in the world.

Her voice had the lilt and accent of the elves, although she seemed to tame it well to blend in more easily in the human city. Dibly had only heard her sing once and her voice had been much different, though how, he found it difficult to describe. It was almost like she was singing with whispering flutes and far-off bells in accompaniment.

She moved with a grace and confidence that so few human women could muster. She almost seemed regal in that regard. Although Dibly could well see her beauty, heíd also adventured by her side long enough that he saw his friend sitting at the table with him, not a potential bedmate.

Her fingers were long and tapered, bringing an elegance to her magical castings. She dressed without pretense, in clothes that offered her comfort and utility, but did not completely hide her trim body.

"Have you seen all that you wish, Master Dibly?" she asked quizically, breaking the spell of his long gaze.

Dibly almost sent back a risque rejoinder, but held his tongue. "You are a mystery to me, Anya the Elf, though one I will appreciate unravelling as our adventures continue."

"Youíre more than you seem as well, Master Dibly," she replied. They let the conversation end and just relaxed in the sun with their drinks for awhile.

VIKTLMARKT IN DAYTIME

At last, they continued their journey as the sun reached mid-afternoon. The Viktlmarkt was quite busy and five times as crowded as Dibly had seen it the night before. All the stalls were open and the traders and merchants filled the air with their enticements and admonitions.

"Fresh, sweet grapefruit from Sonzalla, come and have a taste!"

"The finest silks anywhere are here friends, impress your wives and your lovers!"

"Ham and beef, fresh cuts, ham and beef!"

Their load made it a bit awkward to navigate the press of people crowded into the market but they persevered until they reached the wall where Dibly and Bull had found the Glimrmarkt the night before.

But the alley was not there.

"I donít think butchers and rutabega-sellers are going to want to buy ancient, enchanted weapons, Dibly," said Anya, with the mildest of annoyance.

"No, you donít see, it was here last night!" he whispered in a hiss of irritation. "There was a passage in this wall that led to the magical merchants."

"Well, then it is obvious that the passage would be gone in daylight," said Anya as she set down her burden and sat on the ground, leaning against the wall. At Diblyís look of confusion, she continued, "Have you never heard of the brothers, moon and sun?"

Dibly opened and closed his mouth several times. Of course heíd heard of the moon and the sun, but brothers? He added his load to hers and sat next to her.

"In the time before time when elves walked the earth and men had not yet been seen," she began in the tone of childís story. "the land existed in the permanent twilight of the stars. There was no sun and no moon. The gods were displeased as the stars were not bright enough for their followers to see them in all their glory. So they gathered together and worked for a year and a day to create the sun. They placed it high in the sky so that it might shine down upon their creations and bathe them with glorious light."

"This displeased the wizards and mages. The sun above hurt their eyes and made subtle things, secret things hard to see. They could not summon creatures from other places because the sun was too harsh for them. So they gathered together and fashioned a counterpoint to the sun and called it the moon."

"So opposed were these two forces that neither of them could exist in the sky when the other was present. This so angered the gods that they sent the sun to hunt down and slay the moon. But the moon has never been caught."

"So the sun runs across our sky in search of the moon, and the moon appears whenever the sun isnít too near."

Anya shifted to a more comfortable position. "So, this magical market of yours would be more protected and powerful at night than day. I suspect that once the sun has fallen behind the western mountains, your passage will reappear."

She stood and brushed the dust from her clothes. "I believe I will make a visit to the Academy and pay my greetings to Master Kant. Are you all right guarding our goods?"

Dibly bristled at the thought that he wouldnít be able to protect the treasure and just nodded in reply.

LETTERS AT THE ACADEMY

Anya walked south from the Viktlmarkt toward the high towers of the Wizardís Academy dominating the southern reach of the city. As she moved through the streets, she had the nagging suspicion that someone was following her. She tried several times to turn and spot the tracker, but to not avail.

Eventually shrugging it off to the anxieties at being in such an overly crowded city such as Endhome, she finished her journey to the Academy.

Still fifty feet away, she stopped and looked at the guardians above the gates of the academy. She hadnít taken much notice of them before, but after her recent battle with a stone-skinned gargoyle in the tombs, she was much more wary of the Academyís "statues".

There were two of them, crouched, wings folded. The one on the right peered downward as if at people who approached the gate on foot. The one on the leftís head was angled skyward as if danger might appear there as well. Anya had never seen them move and considering the moss growing on them, she wondered if theyíd ever been more than the work of a talented sculptor.

Tired of her reveries, she walked past the gates and into the courtyard of the academy. As always, she learned that Master Kant was not at the academy at present. Apparently, his duties required him to be absent much of the year. Anya wondered what sort of adventures a grand wizard such as Stylus Kant was involved in.

Out of curiosity, she visited the libraries and browsed, looking for any parts of their collection which might have been penned by elves. She found several scrolls which, while written in some ugly form of elvish, we obviously scribed by human hands.

To elves, the act of writing had great significance. Many of their young years were spent mastering the dozens of dialects and alphabets used by elves over millenia. Months or years were spent in silent contemplation, learning to write with grace and perfection. No short-lived race like men could attain such skill.

Her search was rewarded at last by finding a series of letters written by elvish visitors to Endhome. She found a comfortable chair and began to read them.

Each began plainly enough, though quickly they began to use a wide variety of dialects, almost encoding the true contents of the letter. If a human were to read them, they would read letters of greeting from various elven nobles and personages to the head masters of the Academy, benign comments about life and progress. Soon though, they would find the words undecipherable, at least until the end when the language became clear again with long and complicated wishes of good fortune and success.

The parts that were written to be hidden from humans were more personal messages. She found one by an elf who had found himself dying in Endhome, unable to make the journey back to Greyhaven. He wrote of regrets and successes, friends won and loves lost.

By the time Anya had finished reading it, she found she had tears in her eyes. She looked more closely to find the authorís name and was surprised to see the name of one of her family written in closing; Senja, her motherís eldest brother. The family had never known his fate. Now she knew that he had died close to home, but not close enough to feel his familyís embrace as he passed to the Other World.

For a moment, she considered taking the letter outright, but she didnít want to abuse the trust of the academy. She borrowed pen, ink, and parchment from one of the academy members. She found a quiet corner and began to write, trying to match her uncleís script as best she could.

She lost track of time.

RETURN TO THE GLIMRMARKT

The sun had disappeared and even twilight had come and gone without any sign of Anya. Dibly wanted to go find her and make sure she was alright, but he could barely lift all of the load himself, let alone wander the streets with it.

At least Anya had been right about the Glimrmarkt. In the blink of an eye, smooth wall had become hidden entrance. Dibly decided to proceed without her. He gathered up the treasures and made his way into the hidden market.

The tripwires heíd spotted the night before had been moved and he nearly broke one before catching himself. This night there were seven in all, spread from the hidden entrance to nearly the opening of the Glimrmarkt itself. He suspected that they changed nightly by some sort of magic.

The dreamsmokers were back as well as the painted lady, although the tent of darkness and smoke was an empty spot of grass this night. The same starlight fell upon the tents and buyers even though it had gotten cloudy over Viktlmarkt before sundown.

Dibly asked a few different people for assistance and they unanimously pointed him to Aedgar. The tent he was sent to was one of the largest in the Glimrmarkt and the air around it sparkled in the starlight. There was laughter from inside and people seemed to gather near it to relax.

He pulled back the flap and stepped inside. He was not prepared for this kind of magic.

Dibly was standing in the grand entrance hall of what must have been a very large building of some sort, certainly far larger than the tent in Glimrmarkt. The hall was brightly lit with colored torches that danced in the air to a melody on the wind. The ceiling appeared open to the clear night sky.

People moved about easily escorted by a man in a formal jacket with tails. It took Dibly a moment to realize that each group of people was being escorted by the same man. Either they were all mirror-brothers or something even more arcane was afoot.

"Welcome to my home, good sir!" exclaimed the man in the jacket with tails standing next to Dibly. Dibly hadnít seen, heard or sensed the man approach him. He was just there. The man appeared to be in his fifties with white hair that was combed neatly back over his head. His dress appeared to be the kind one might wear to a fancy dress ball, the black long jacket, starched white shirt and satin shoulder ribbon festooned with small jewelry.

"They call me Aedgar and I would be pleased if you did the same. Iím guessing that you have some things you would like to part with, in the hopes of walking away a richer man. Well, good sir, we are never so rich as we are when we possess magic! That said, there is never any shame in selling what you have to purchase what you dream about, is there? No! Of course there isnít." The manís talk was smooth and practiced.

Dibly found himself being led to one of hundreds of side rooms. The room was white stone with thick carpets and two cushioned chairs on either side of a wide table. The man sat in the far chair and invited Dibly to display his treasures on the table.

Dibly carefully unpacked the basket of potions, the ring, the bows and the shield, the cloak and the gloves, and the ivory feather. Aedgarís eyes grew wide with delight.

"What wonderful things youíve found! And what a wide assortment!" he enthused. He glanced at Dibly a moment. "I wonít ask where these pretties came from, of course. Itís not my place to ask such sordid questions."

Dibly nearly took offense at the manís insinuation, but being in such strange surroundings, he did not feel sure enough to pick a fight.

"Ah, wonderful... exquisite... fine example of one of those... letís see... about three swallows in that one...hmm...thatís seen better days, Iíll tell you," mumbled Aedgar as he peered at each item in turn through tiny glasses.

At last, the man sat down with an almost exhausted smile on his face. "Simply lovely. Iím quite prepared to offer you a sum of coin for this interesting collection, but it would only be fair for me to offer you an alternative. For a slightly smaller bag of coin in payment, I would be willing to tell you what I know of each item. Many people prefer this option as they would rather not sell something that is more valuable than they realized. Iím willing to impart this information because my values are quite fair and I have never been accused of bargaining too cheaply. Well, almost never," he ends with a rogueish grin.

Dibly considered the pile of things. He pulled out the potions, the ring, the amulet, and the feather. The nature of the rest were pretty clear.

"A discerning eye, I see. It is such a pleasure to perform commerce with the skilled and not the simple-minded." He pushed the glasses back up his nose and began to move his arm over the table, touching each object in turn.

"Potions, philters, and imbibements. These are potions to make you very small, potions to make you jump up tall, potions to change your face, potions to let you swim with grace, potions to make you wise as the owl, potions to make your touch as dread as deathís cowl, potions to make you smart and if thatís not enough, potions you drink to make you tough," he laughed, enjoying his rhymes.

"A simple ring to keep you warm, whether bitter cold or drenching storm. A bony hand hanging at your side will keep you safe and toughen your hide. And last but not least is this, you see," he said holding up the feather. "Plant it in the ground for an instant tree."

Dibly gave the haggler a genuine smile. The show itself was worth a bit less coin overall. Dibly agreed to sell most of the lot, keeping all the potions except the Ghoul's Touch and the Swimming ones. He was pleased when Aedgar bestowed him with nearly 34,000 gold pieces worth of precious gemstones.

"Now the safest way to bring your new wealth home is to purchase the magic you deserve and need. Sharper swords and magic armor, wings to fly, or a book to enlighten you," tempted Aedgar as he walked Dibly back out into the grand hall.

"We'll see. For now, I will bid you farewell, Aedgar," said Dibly with a little bow.

"Well, do come back. You wonít find better prices or magic anywhere else," said Aedgar as he gently steered Dibly toward the entrance to the grand hall. "Now, I find it safer for my customers if they don't leave the same way they came in. Where would you like to go in the city?"

Dibly was a little confused at this. "Um, I'll be going back to the west side," he said, wary of giving away more information than that.

Aedgar smiled warmly and waved as Dibly stepped past the tent flap. Instead of the street of the Glimrmarkt, Dibly found himself standing behind the stables at the King's Road.

"Okay, now I'm impressed," he muttered as he walked around the stables to get to the tavern.

Once inside the King's, Dibly discreetly secured the new gemstones in his room. He checked in on Anya's room and was relieved to find her there fast asleep. He relocked her door and went to bed.

June 24, 2265 Old Empire

NEW FOUND WEALTH

The next morning found Dibly in a great mood. Even after his night-time activities, he woke early. After cleaning up a bit around the tavern (always good to earn his discount room sometimes), he went into the kitchen and convinced Sara to let him do some of the cooking.

By the time the others began to rouse themselves, the smell of frying bacon and honeyed pancakes had filled the tavern. Dibly had recalled his mother's recipe and done a fair job recreating it. He enjoyed several hours of cooking and bringing platters of the bacon and cakes out to his friends and the other travellers staying at the King's.

It made quite a festive atmosphere for the morning. Even the foul-tempered Boccio seemed to approve, his down-turned mug edging more toward a smile than a frown.

After the food had been eaten and the washing done, Dibly sat with his friends in the now deserted tavern common room.

"We did well last night selling the treasures," said Dibly in a quiet voice. "I've got about 34,000 gold pieces worth of gemstones hidden in my room." He also explained what potions he'd kept and what they were good for.

"That certainly gives us a lot to work with," said Mitsu, looking down at a bit of parchment he'd been making notes on with a piece of charcoal.

Only Anya seemed unimpressed with the wealth they had amassed. She'd grown up in the halls of Greyhaven where many gifts from the dwarven races were displayed with honor. The elves themselves had many riches, accumulated over their centuries of life.

She thought about the letter that she had copied last night from the Wizard's Academy library. Once she had satisfied her curiosities about the Lost City, she would return to Greyhaven to deliver the letter to her mother.

But that brought another thought to her head. She'd already had a disturbing visitation in the lands of the dead once. It was possible that she would not survive their dungeon-delving. She couldn't let the letter disappear again.

As the others began to discuss what sort of magics they wanted to buy, she stood and walked outside, taking a chance on spotting the elusive Turasoq. She was pleased to see the elder elf by the stables saddling her snow white horse. Anya walked over to her and bowed when Turasoq turned toward her. Apparently, Anya's instincts were correct as Turasoq did not dismiss her bow as unnecessary.

"Good morning, friend," said Turasoq in elvish. "What brings you to me this glorious day of nature?"

"I have a favor to ask of you, one that I hope will not be a burden," said Anya. Turasoq raised an eyebrow and smiled. "I have a letter that must be delivered to Triana of Greyhaven. I would do it myself, but I believe I would put greater faith in you than myself, considering the dangers my companions and I plan to face."

"Well, I never have visited Greyhaven. I suppose it would be good to pay my respects to your lords and worship in your glades," said the elder elf. "Yes, give me your letter and I will make sure it arrives there safely. I may have time for the trip later this summer."

"Thank you, your grace," said Anya as she bowed again and returned to the tavern. She was surprised to find her companions sitting around the table silently making small motions with their hands and fingers.

"What is this pantomime all about?" she asked, confused.

"It's a silent language that I started learning yesterday. I believe we can used it to our advantage in our adventures. If you can cast silence at crucial times, we can use this language to communicate. The silence should allow us to gain surprise on our enemies or keep their spellcasters from being able to cast. You'll be able to use your wand and can cast any preparatory magics before you cast silence. You can cast it on object so we can carry the silence with us as we explore."

"We'll have to practice this for several days while we're here. Hamel, a compatriot of my order, knows the language well for when he's working in the Academy's library. Apparently the entire library is silenced to permit uninterrupted contemplation and prevent any wizard from casting spells."

[Game Terms: At fifth level, all characters take one rank in the Language skill, specifying Endhome Library Cant]

"Now, let's talk magic. We need to gird ourselves with more protections against the attacks of the monsters. All of our weapons should be magic as we seem to be facing more and more magical creatures."

"Well, let's go see what they have available," said Ventros. "I saw a street near the rich homes that appeared to have shoppes with enchanted items for sale. I know I saw a few smiths as well as other types of merchants."

It was agreed and the party headed into the city to find the magics that would save their lives in the Lost City. Dibly brought along the gemstones and Bull carried the sacks of coins.

MAGIC STREET

As our heroes walked down the broad avenue of Magic Street, Dibly was interested in how different it was from Glimrmarkt. It seemed a street like almost any other in the city with a few trees growing through the cobbles and providing shade for passersby. The shoppes were strung together, each with a story or two above for the merchant's family to live. There were traders and craftsmen as well as a few taverns to feed hungry shoppers.

Like most of Endhome, the buildings were built with dark brown (near black) timber supports with white or ivory painted wood or daub. The roofs overhung the street by several feet, providing the chance of dry footing during rains. Larger or more solid structures had a foundation of stone and stone walls for the first or second floors, topped by timber and daub for floors higher than that.

It certainly wasn't as crowded as Viktlmarkt. The five of them could walk easily side by side as they looked at the different shops. Apparently there were enough wealthy citizens in Endhome to keep the merchants prospering, but you didn't buy an enchanted sword every week.

After walking the length of the street, they turned around and stopped first at a large smithy that sat prominently half-way down the street. It faced a sort of courtyard where the street became wider. The street-facing sides of the smithy were wide open, allowing a gentle breeze to pass through and relieve the smiths from the heat of their forges. Dibly looked around and suspected that the breeze was an enchantment as the trees in the street hung listlessly in the hot June air.

"Good day," said a woman as she dumped an iron bar into a water bath and stepped away from the forges. She was a large woman with pronounced muscles. To withstand the forge heat she wore only britches and a leather apron in front. "What are you looking for?"

"Good day, Mistress Smith," began Dibly. "We seek weapons worthy of our deeds, weapons of enchantment that we might use to defeat the monsters of the wildlands." As Dibly spoke, the smith nodded and looked the group over. She smiled when she saw Mitsu.

"A devotionate of the Passive Voice, I believe! Welcome, good monk. There are far too few of your kind in Endhome. Call me Shembrahar. You've met Hamel, I suspect," she began coversationally.

"Yes, we've spent time at the Academy," answered Mitsu politely.

"Of course, where else would you go? I only speak to it as my father and brother are monks of your order. They left on a devotional journey seven summers past. I think they were seeking the Order's homehall in Farkyth or some such place. Are you on your journey?"

"Yes," answered Mitsu again, unsure of how to keep up with her rapid conversation.

"Curious, isn't it? My men go on their journey west and you're on your journey and end up where they started. Well, that's the sort of mystery that your folks unravel, I suspect." She paused, turning back to the others. "Pardons, please. If you tell me more of what you are looking for specifically, I think I might be able to help you."

Ventros stepped forward first. "I am the hand of St Cuthbert and I need a weapon worthy of his glory, a mace heavy with power and willing to exact our Saint's judgment," he said boldly. Shembrahar nodded solmenly, tapping her chin with a forefinger.

She walked back to a rear wall of the smithy where dozens of weapons of all types were hung. She selected three large maces of different shapes and brought them back to the party.

"These have each been enchanted for power by Corios More of the Academy. See which is your preferred heft."

Ventros picked up each mace in turn and held it as he went through a series of his martial exercises. The first two were too heavy for him to wield well, but the last felt good in his grip and it swung quick and sure.

The mace's shaft was solid and bound in four places by iron. The non-business end was capped with an iron cup with a spike sticking out from it. A slender, but strong iron chain was attached to the endcap in a loop, allowing the wielder to loop it over his wrist and possibly keep the weapon at hand even if he lost his grip. It was also loose enough that the mace could be discarded easily, with practice.

The head of the mace was a four cornered plug of iron with sharpened ridges at each corner. The sides between the ridges were studded with diamond-shaped teeth, while the top of the mace ended in a four-inch spike. The enemies of St. Cuthbert would not be pleased to see it swinging at them.

[ +1 Heavy Mace for Ventros -- 2012 gp ]

He held on to the last mace with a nod and the smith returned the others to their pegs on the wall. Bull was satisfied with his axe in hand. "It has drunk good blood but is still thirsty." With Anya focusing on slinging spells more than swinging her sword and Mitsu refraining from weaponry at all, it left Dibly to choose.

Dibly showed Shembrahar the rapier he owned, letting her feel its weight and length. She wandered back among her wares for a few minutes before walking out with a single rapier.

"I can't really recall the last time we crafted a rapier. Not the first choice of the soldiers and the like around here, really. But I came into possession of this weapon about a year ago. The fellow claimed it was once owned by Jack LeStrange himself, though he could not prove it, of course."

Dibly gazed the rapier as she held it out to him. He was in love. It was a gorgeous piece of craftsmanship, with a golden half-cup hand guard, a pair of sweeping curved crossbars and a blade that shone even in the shadow of the smithy. The hand guard had been etched with a grapevine design which was echoed down along the blade. The grip appeared to be a wrap of red-dyed leather ending in a heart-shaped pommel. It appeared a little longer than his own rapier.

He took it gingerly from her hand and slipped his right hand around its grip. Stepping out of the smithy for more room, he went through his own sword training positions (post, redoubt, feint, parry...) eventually working himself in a flurry of jabs and swipes including a tuck and roll to an en garde position.

Sweating but with a big smile, Dibly stepped back into the shade of the smithy.

"You'll take it?" asked the smith with a chuckle.

"Yes," he panted. "Yes, I will."

[ +1 Rapier for Dibly -- 2020 gp ]

"You know, that armor of yours is cutting down your freedom of movement. And it looks like itís a bit heavy for you. Would you consider changing to magical armor?" she offered.

"Yes, we are interested in armors and other magical protections," said Dibly as he tested his new rapier in his belt sheath. The blade extended several inches past the end of the sheath, but it was still held well and could be drawn easily.

Shembrahar guided them to another part of the smithy where two men were busy hammering a large breastplate into shape. She pointed out shirts of chainmail, suits of chain or leather armor, shields, bucklers, breastplates, and bracers.

"Now the bracers have a different sort of enchantment," she yelled over the din of the hammering smiths. "Wear a pair of these and it will be as if you had a suit of armor on." She turned to Dibly. "Lot less weight if you go this route."

Dibly nodded and tried the bracers on. He tested them to see if they would interfere with his hand movements or swordplay, but when he was convinced he agreed to take them. He took off his leather armor and gave it to Shembrahar for part of the cost.

[ Bracers of Armor +2 for Dibly, 4000 -- 7.5 for his leather = 3992.5 gp ]

Bull and Ventros each spent time trying chainmail shirts on over their tunics until they found ones that fit them well.

[ +1 Chain Shirts for Bull and Ventros, 2 * 1,000 gp ]

"Last thing you might want to consider," said Shembrahar quietly as the smiths had ceased work on the breastplate. She looked at Bull. "Got quite a stud there. Bet he could lift our heavy anvil without breaking a sweat. If you're interested in even more strength, he could try these." The smith opened an iron chest and pulled out a pair of black-lacquered steel gauntlets. They were made of several metal plates with a web of leather woven beneath the plates.

Bull tried them on and was surprised to feel the leather expand to fit his large hands comfortably. He opened and clenched his fists repeatedly in them and he could feel strength coursing through him. He felt like he could lift a horse if he wanted to. His eyes flashed with power.

"Um, I think he'll buy them," said Dibly. The smith nodded knowingly.

[ Gauntlets of Ogre Power (+2 Str) for Bull, 4,000gp ]

Their selections complete, Dibly haggled with Shembrahar for a bit before finally surrendering the agreed upon amount in coin and gemstones. She wished them well and suggested they return in the future for more if they needed it.

Their journey down Magic Street brought them next to a clothiers shoppe. They walked in, setting the door bell to twinkling. Bull found the shoppe difficult to move in so he decided to remain outside.

The afternoon was passing and from time to time an entertainer would meander down the street or set himself up by a tree, performing tricks of magic and sleight of hand. One had a small cloth set out in front of him on which stood three upside down cups. A couple children were gathered around as he moved the cups around and around and challenged them to point out the cup underwhich a marble had been placed. The children were delighted at the trick, groaning each time they failed to find the marble.

Bull wandered over to the display. The children didn't run at the sight of him, but the frivolity was dampened and they quickly found reasons to wander off. The magician appeared a bit annoyed at the half-orc's intrusion.

"Care to give it a try, big guy?" he asked. Bull nodded.

"Well, for the children its free, but for you, there must be a wager. Place a silver down if you're sure you can follow the marble." Bull fished a silver coin out of his tunic and dropped it on the mat.

"This," said the magician, holding up a red marble, "is the Princess Sophie. She's gotten lost and you are quested to find her." He dropped the marble on the map and covered it up with a cup. "Find the cave she's hiding in, and you'll rescue the Princess, as well as earn yourself another silver." He started moving the cups around in a complex pattern, keeping up his distracting patter and pausing at odd moments. Finally, he stopped the cups and held his hands open, palms up.

Bull looked at the cups and then at the magician. He pointed to a cup, which the magician dutifully turned over. Empty. Bull's silver coin disappeared in a flash.

Irritated, he tried again, watching closely as the cups moved around. Again, his chosen cup was empty. Another silver gone. Now he was upset. He began to growl low. The magician blanched a bit but didn't move.

"Wait here," commanded Bull before he walked back over to the clother's shoppe. A moment later he walked back with Mitsu in tow.

"Find the Princess," said Bull, pointing at the cups. The magician began his patter and Mitsu dropped five gold coins on the mat. That caused the patter to stutter a moment, but he soon recovered, eventually ending up with three cups and his open hands.

"Quite simple," said Mitsu. He placed his own hands on two of the cups. "The marble is not under these, so it must be under the other." He then lifted the two cups revealing no marble.

The magician glared at the monk, who returned the look with a smile of easy confidence. The magician found enough silver to pay off Mitsu's bet, but promptly rolled up his mat and walked away from them at a steady pace.

Mitsu gave Bull his two silvers back. "How did you do that?" asked Bull, impressed.

"It is all a matter of understanding what they want you to see, so you can decide what it is that they don't want you to see." Bull furrowed his brow but said nothing as Mitsu re-entered the clother's shoppe.

It appeared that Anya had finally gotten the attention of the near-sighted, grey-haired woman who owned the place. She wore thick glasses that made her eyes appear huge. Anya discussed the sorts of things they were looking for and the woman nodded, moving about the high piles of rugs, shirts, cloaks, and jackets.

First she patted her hand on a pile of burgundy cloaks. "Cloaks of Wiselmere, ensorcellments of protection woven into the cloth."

[ 5 Cloaks of Resistance +1, 1 to each PC -- 5,000 gp ]

Next she found a large chest filled with gloves of all shapes and sizes. She found two pair of thin calfskin gloves. "Weaver's Gloves, make you quicker," she said as she handed them over.

[ (2) Gloves of Dexterity +2, Dibly, Mitsu -- 8,000 gp ]

They watched her move around the piles like a mountaineer navigating the deep valleys between peaks. She clucked as she walked and her hands never seemed to stop moving. It looked like she was still sewing something, even though nothing was in her hands.

"Boots of the Elvenkind, quiets even the clumsiest oaf," she recited, handing them to Anya. The elven wizard took one look at the boots and saw that they were not elven-made, but appeared finely crafted none-the-less and felt like they had been given some magical powers. She handed them over to Dibly.

[ Boots of the Elvenkind (+5 Move Silently) Dibly -- 2,500 gp ]

"And the adventurer's friend," she concluded, smiling broadly. "The little pouch with the big appetite." She picked up a plain leather bag and began to toss blanket after blanket into it, continuing long after it should have been full and too heavy for her to hold one-handed. After watching the reaction of her customers, she turned the bag over and all the blankets came tumbling out.

Mitsu nodded, impressed. She handed him the bag which he tossed to Bull.

[ Bag of Holding, Type II, holds 500 lbs, 70 cu ft. Bull- 5,000 gp ]

More than satisfied, Dibly haggled with the aged proprietor, eventually handing over a fair sum in coin and gemstones. He thanked her warmly and they left the shop.

The day was waning as they walked back in the street again. "A successful bit of trading I would say," said Dibly as he looked at his new possessions and those of his friends. "We have about 7,000 gold left in the 'party's coffers'. What are we still missing?"

"I believe I should visit the shrine of the Saint. For an appropriate offering, I believe I will be able to obtain more healing magics to aid us," said Ventros. After all agreed, Dibly gave him four gemstones and the priest headed east.

"You two are not well-armored," judged Mitsu, looking at Dibly and Anya. "Perhaps there are more these," holding up the bone hand amulet, "available in the markets."

Dibly looked at the remaining monies, saddened greatly by their near depletion. "I'll see what I can do."

As Anya, Bull, and Mitsu headed back to the King's, Dibly thought about where he wanted to go. He'd not seen amulets like Mitsu's on Magic Street, so he guessed that Aedgar's might be a better choice. With a few hours of daylight to waste, he headed off into the city, wandering to find places he'd not seen before, reinforcing his understanding of the city and its byways.

Wandering might have been a fine past time with four compatriots at your side, but it was not a good pasttime in a city or in the wilderness. There were predators in both places just waiting for the docile or oblivious. Dibly discovered this the hard way.

He'd just turned down a close in an attempt to cut from one thoroughfare to another. But in this case, the close turned back on itself and ended in a courtyard with two doors. Dibly stopped and turned around to find the way back blocked by three men.

The nearest man wore a scarlet vest of much finer cut than the rest of his dirty clothes. His hair was long and tied back with a ribbon of a different red. He held a cutlass loosely in his left hand.

Behind him were two men who appeared so much alike that Dibly wondered if they were related to Aedgar in some odd way. Each was a bulky man with only a shadow of hair on their shaven head. Each sported a snake's tongue beard, with shiny beads woven into the hairs down each strand. They wore worn, black leather vests over simple tunics and pants. In their meaty hands they gripped thick clubs of wood.

"I believe you made a wrong turn, my friend," said Scarlet Vest through a toothy smile. "We could help you back on your way, but maybe you'd like to do something friendly for us first." The man's eyes alighted on many of Dibly's new possessions.

"I think I'll have to let my steel speak for me, sir," said Dibly with a flourish as he drew his new prized rapier. He swished it about before taking up a fighting stance. This gave Scarlet Vest and the others a moment of pause.

"You misunderstand us, my good man," soothed Scarlet Vest as he shifted to his left and one of the club-bearers moved right. The other club-bearer remained blocking the exit. They would soon have Dibly surrounded and at great disadvantage.

He reached in his pouch and pulled out a fist full of gold coins. He tossed them in the air at the club bearer to his left while he lunged at Scarlet Vest on his right. His rapier bit into the man's arm, eliciting a curse of protest. The cutlass cut the air over Dibly's head as he leapt toward the exit, tumbling to get past the brute blocking the way.

He hit the brute's leg like it was a brick wall, end up in a jumble at the man's feet. Looking up he saw Scarlet Vest standing over him, his arm clutched at the bleeding wound in his sword arm.

"Not so fast, shiteater. We've only gotten started," he growled. The thug blocking the exit grabbed Dibly by his shirt and hauled him up into the air. He slammed him against the nearby wall, knocking the rapier from Dibly's hand, skittering it across the cobbles to lay by one of the doors.

Dibly tried to break the man's grip but was unable to do so. The other brute came over and began to punch Dibly rapidly in the gut, each strike an explosion of pain for the young rogue.

Sensing his assailant pulling back for a big blow, Dibly spat in his captor's eye. One hand lost its grip so Dibly swung to the side, still dangling from the other fist. The puncher slammed his fist into the belly of his double, causing the second fist to release Dibly entirely.

Scarlet Vest swung the cutlass at Dibly, cutting through his shirt, but leaving only a thin stinging wound across the rogue's chest. Dibly feinted one way and then dove past the swordsman, tumbling over to his rapier and ending up on his feet.

The exit-blocking thug was doubled over in pain while his friend mumbled apologies.

"Get him, you simpletons!" yelled Scarlet Vest as he kept Dibly pinned back toward the wall with his waving sword. The club-bearers turned toward Dibly and charged him. In a moment, Dibly Grissom would be flattened.

"Can't stop me now!" he taunted at Scarlet Vest, again feinting a leap to the left, before pulling back and stabbing one of the big men in the knee. The big man crumpled to the cobblestones holding his bleeding knee. Dibly suffered a blow to his head from the other brute. He persevered the blurry vision and dodged past them.

Scarlet Vest was ready for him and swung low, to catch him as he would tumble past. Knowing this, Dibly simply leapt over the slicing blade and sprinted down the close.

He reached the thoroughfare with no sounds of pursuit behind him, but he kept running for at least another ten minutes, anytime a city guardsman wasn't standing nearby. Only when he reached the docks again, did he begin to feel safe once more.

He rested panting against the wall where the Glimrmarkt passage would appear and took stock of his bumps and bruises. The chest cut stung a bit, but wasn't a terrible bleeder. His shirt was torn open from the cut and the fight. His belly felt bruised and tender and there was already a lump on his head from the club.

Once he'd recovered his wind, he found and bought a new shirt in the Viktlmarkt. Then it was back to resting and waiting for the Glimrmarkt to appear.

AEDGAR'S AGAIN

Dibly drew back the tent flap and was transported once again to the opulent hall of Aedgar's Emporium of Enchantments. After a few moments to drink in the view, he was greeted by one of the many Aedgars.

"I'm seeking amulet, the kind that can toughen me for fights," said Dibly. The Aedgar looked him over and chuckled kindly.

"I can see why. Are you sure you wouldn't be interested in some healing salves for your bumps and cuts?" Dibly shook his head and let himself be led to an anonymous side hall.

"I'd seen something like a hand or fist carved out of bone, strung on a chain of small iron links," suggested Dibly.

"Ah the Knight's Bone! Now that is an old sort of creation, and somewhat unique. Care to hear its history? It won't cost you much," teased Aedgar.

"I'm tempted, but I think I will pass this evening. I'm eager to be home and rest up these bumps and bruises."

"Very well. I don't have one of the Knight's Bones but the enchantment that created them was not difficult. Many others have followed the master's lead. The finest amulets of this type crafted are the Shield Amulets of Dragon Bay." Aedgar reached under the table and brought out an amulet and laid it on the table. The body of the amulet looked like a pewter or iron shield, its face divided into four quarters, each enscribed with an intricate design, dragons, stripes, fists, and roses. The shield was about four inches tall and would hang from a necklace of braided leather strips.

Dibly picked the amulet up and looked it over. "Can I get two of these?" Aedgar nodded and brought another out to lay upon the table.

"They cannot be used together on the same person. The magics can cancel each other out at the most inopportune times."

Price was discussed, merits and limitations argued, values questioned and a final sum agreed to. Dibly placed one amulet about his neck and the other in his pocket. He placed most of the tomb coins on the table and all but three of the gemstones before Aedgar agreed that the sum had been met.

Moments later, Dibly was again standing behind the stable of the King's Road Inn. He walked stiffly to the back door of the inn, greeted Sara with smile, Boccio with a nod and tromped up the stairs to his room.