Alignment Infraction System

In my campaign I will be using points to track when characters drift away from their stated alignments, as I find the moral and ethical dimension of character development to be rather intriguing and it can also have significant impact in a game world wherein the forces of Law and Chaos, Good and Evil, actually take concrete form. Any action can earn you anywhere from 1 to 10 infraction points. So let’s say you are a chaotic and end up supporting instead of subverting the rule of law – depending on what you have done you will earn from 1 to 10 points. Extenuating circumstances will be taken into account. And of course biding one’s time or pretending to be another alignment will give some slight leeway, but in the case of Lawful and Good characters not that much. You can’t be an undercover cop and then murder someone just to convince the bad guys you are on their side – for instance.

Minor, Serious or Major acts of Good, Evil, Law, or Chaos will earn:

Minor Points – 1-4

Serious – 5-8

Major – 8-12 or more!

Once you get 10 points of drift you will change over to the next alignment over in that direction and the points will be erased. So if you are Neutral Good and get 10 Evil points, you will be switched to true Neutral. If you get 10 more Evil points you will be switched to Neutral Evil.

Acts performed unwitting or under compulsion do not actually cause the accrual of alignment drift points, but the Atonement spell will still be needed as per the description of that spell. Also, the Atonement spell can be used to erase any alignment drift points accrued. Note that this will require the expenditure of 250 gold pieces per drift point atoned for or the fulfillment of a deed/mission designated by the priest casting the spell (who will him or herself pay off the gold). Paladins who lose their powers due to willfully committing an Evil act will have to pay at least 250 gold even if all the drift points have been negated by later acts such as apologies or making amends.

Also, an aligned creature who has 5 or fewer HD and is not undead, an aligned outsider, a cleric or paladin and also aligned magic items or spells that are 5th level or lower will still register to detections but will be so negligible that the detection spell will not be able to pinpoint anything other than their presence within the area detected.

You will not get points for simply adhering to your alignment, though if you have accrued drift points and you then perform acts at some inconvenience or cost to yourself that are more in keeping with your declared alignment than I will take away some or all of the drift points. For instance, characters who declare Law as their alignment will not get points for doing obeying local laws or adhering to their code of honor, they are expected to. Though if they have drifted into Chaos and earned Chaos points, truly Lawful acts that inconvenience or even endanger their characters will negate the Chaos points. So let’s say a Lawful character helps break a friend out of jail to save them from execution. He would get Chaos point for that. Then that same character turns themselves in to the authorities for doing that, knowing that they will suffer the penalty. That would negate some or all of the Chaos points. The same goes for Chaotics, but in reverse, and likewise for those declaring Good or Evil alignments. The act that erases the drift need not be directly related to the act that caused the drift, but it does need to be a significant act in keeping with their declared alignment. Neutral acts do not cause drift nor will they negate drift points.

I’m not going to penalize anyone in terms of game mechanics or dock anyone experience points for alignment shifts except in the case of paladins, clerics, druids, monks, and any other class that must maintain a certain alignment standard. I will on occasion inform you of how you are drifting so that you can make course corrections or inform me that you are indeed developing your character in a new direction. Generally I’ll let you voluntarily shift one alignment component per level. So let’s say there is a LG fighter. When he gains a level he can choose to become LN or NG. But not N (which would be two shifts) or CE (which would be four shifts). He would have to wait until a new level to change from LN to LE or to N. There are of course instances of drastic conversions and magical manipulation. I will handle those on a case-by-case basis.

This generally means that Lawful and Good alignments will be harder to maintain – as I think they should be. There are benefits to maintaining those alignment such as earning the respect and trust of others and other rewards that may play out in-game. Conversely, Chaos and Evil will be easy to drift into if one is not careful – and the in game penalties of such selfish destructiveness will also play out in game, as one will no doubt arouse the distrust, resentment, and enmity of others. Of course sometimes no good deed goes unpunished and the bad may seem to flourish, but this is all part of unfolding of the campaign. I should also mention that while I will not dock experience points for acting against one’s alignment (instead I will give drift points), I may choose to give role playing experience points to those who act in ways that are in keeping with their alignment and/or other character commitments and motives but that may lead to great inconvenience or harm. These experience points will carry over to one’s next character if your should actually die from such actions.

Below is my take on what each of the alignments means:

Lawful: Those pledged to Law will be trustworthy, disciplined, and work well with others in hierarchical organization. They may follow a personal code and will respect the laws of the land and the codes of others as long as they don’t conflict with their commitment re good or evil. Disobeying laws is normally a Chaotic act, but a Lawful character need only be loyal to one set of principle or laws at a time. So a Lawful character could break those laws that are in conflict with the laws and principles that he or she follows. However, this will not excuse gratuitous law-breaking that is not in conflict with their primary allegiances. The code or law they adhere to must be one that is shared by a significant group of people (i.e. not just other party members). So a Lawful character can’t just have a personal code and ignore all other forms of law, nor will he gratuitously break laws. I will take away Chaos drift points and/or award XP if your character adheres to laws/codes/discipline even to their detriment or harm. Drift points towards Chaos are accrued for breaking the codes or  laws that they subscribe to, for gratuitously flouting other laws or codes, or for being untrustworthy or disloyal.

Chaos: Those pledged to Chaos will not honor their word nor any loyalties and prefer to work independently. They will in fact go out of their way to subvert authority or even start or participate in a revolution. They will form alliances of convenience and only follow leaders who have enough personal power to keep themselves on top, at least for the moment. I will take away Law drift points for being subversive, untrustworthy, undisciplined and generally flakey even when such actions would inconvience your characters or even be self-destructive. Drift points towards Law will be accrued for obeying laws that inconvenience your character, or for being trustworthy and loyal to the point of inconvenience, thereby going beyond just a personl, whimsical, or temporary attachment to a leader, ally, or cause – in other words for being trustworthy, loyal, and reliable when it would not serve your character to do so and/or be boring.

Good: Those pledged to Good will respect all living beings and try to support, nourish and protect life and may actively try to seek and fight Evil. I will negate Evil drift points for doing good when it would inconvenience or even endanger your character. Drift points towards Evil will accrue for hurting or exploiting others for one’s own benefit.

Evil: Those pledged to Evil will, of course, not necessarily think of themselves as Evil. They simply serve themselves at the expense of everyone around them. This does not mean that they will necessarily be raping, pillaging, plundering and murdering. Their evil may be simply a matter of inveterate selfishness and subtle insidiousness. I will negate drift points toward Good  for acts involving harming and exploiting others for the character’s own benefit – esp. if such were to harm even family and friends. Drift points towards Good will be accrued for performing any act to benefit another if would inconvience, let alone endganger, oneself or not have some kind of pay-off down the line.

Neutral: These are basically people who just want to mind their own business. On the Law/Chaos axis they will generally obey laws but will not go out of their way to uphold the law and will break it if they think they can get away with it or the consequences of getting caught are minor. On the Good/Evil they will be helpful to others as long as it doesn’t require any real sacrifice, and will generally not harm or exploit others unless they feel it is necessary for their own well-being. Neutrals are basically just self-interested people who are not altruistic enough to be good, not malicious enough to be evil, not revolutionaries, but not sticklers for law and order either (at least not personally. Neutrals do generally want other people to be law abiding and altruistic, but they can also sometimes be suspicious of others because they fear the worst, esp. of strangers. Neutrals will get drift points from both poles of the axis they are neutral on, but these points will also cancel each other out. As long as they don’t accrue more than 10 in any one direction they will remain Neutral, and of course they may just drift back to Neutrality again after that.

Below is a list of specific acts and how I will rate them in terms of alignment and severity – if I don’t specific minor, serious, or major it means I haven’t decided or that it would be very circumstantial:

Killing and Harming sentient beings – this pertains to self-aware, rational beings.

Murder – almost always a Major Evil act, may be Lawful or Chaotic depending. (10 points, Cold Blooded Murder 12 points, Murder for Pleasure 14 points)

Killing a Foe after they are defeated and no longer a threat – 4 Evil points, and may also garner Chaotic points depending on circumstances.

Capital Punishment – may be a Minor Lawful act, but not a Good one.

Vigilantism –Chaotic act, may be Evil as well

War of Aggression –may be Lawful if pretext found, but usually Chaotic and a major Evil

Just War – minor Lawful, may be minor Good at best

Suicide – may be major Lawful, may be major Chaotic depending on local culture, usually major Evil.

Abortion – may be Lawful, may be Chaotic, depending on local laws and culture, never a Good act. Forced abortions are definitely major Evil. Some late term abortions may be tantamount to infanticide which is definitely a major Evil act, though may be Lawful in some Lawful Evil societies.

Infanticide – major Evil

Ritual Sacrifice of a Sentient Being – major Evil, may also be major Chaotic or Lawful depending on deity or cause sacrificed is for.

Martyrdom – A major act in line with the alignments of the deity or cause one is martyred for.

Consenting to be ritually sacrificed – major act of Law or Chaos, and/or Evil in line with the deity or cause the sacrifice is for.

Assault – Evil act, usually Chaotic (Causing gratuitous injury 6 points)

Torture – major Evil act, but may be Lawful or Chaotic.

(According to Book of Vile Darkness:

Intimidating 2 points,

Painful or Cruel 8 points

Excruciating 10 points

Sadistic 12 points

Indescribable 14 points)

Animal Cruelty – minor Evil act for first such act, but ongoing participation would be a more serious Evil act. This may also be a minor or serious Chaotic act depending on local laws. Unfortunately, participating in such acts might be a Lawful act in some societies.

Protecting or Saving Life

Saving a Life – major Good esp. if it entails some risk to oneself

Healing – at least minor Good may be more if at cost to oneself

Defense of Others – Good act

Self Defense – Neutral act

Freeing animals – minor Good act for first time, but ongoing activity could be a more serious Good. This may be a minor or serious Chaotic act depending on local laws. Could also be a Lawful act in some cases.

Taking What is Not Given

Stealing – almost always a major Chaotic act, may be Evil if it actively harms another physically or emotionally. (Stealing from Needy 4 points Evil)

Exploiting – may be Lawful, but definitely serious or major Evil.

Enslaving – major Evil, may be Chaotic or Lawful depending

Confiscation – usually Lawful, may be Evil or Good depending

Robbing the Rich to Sell to the Poor – major Chaotic, and never Good and may even be Evil (see stealing above)

Giving , Liberation, Recovering

Charity – Good act, may be Lawful or Chaotic depending (4 points Good)

Liberating Slaves – major Good, major Chaotic

Robbing the Rich to Give to the Poor – still major Chaotic, but may be Good.

Stealing Back what was Stolen – usually minor Chaotic, could be Good

Sexuality

Rape – usually major Chaotic and always major Evil

Exploitation – may be Lawful and always major Evil

Homosexuality – may be viewed as minor Lawful or minor Chaotic depending on society but in and of itself is not of any alignment.

Prostitution – may be Lawful or Chaotic, if exploitation or other non-concensual activity is involved it is major Evil

Pornography – may be viewed Lawful or Chaotic, if exploitation it is major Evil

Minors – may be Lawful or Chaotic, always major Evil as there can be no consent

Marriage – major Lawful not necessarily Good could be Evil (if forced)

Promiscuity – Chaotic

Adultery – Chaotic, and may be Evil depending on circumstances (note that what constitutes adultery may be cultural – here it means being unfaithful)

Irresponsible in re to disease and pregnancy – Chaotic and possibly Evil

Responsible in re to disease and pregnancy – Lawful and possibly Good

Matchmaking – may be Good, Evil, Lawful, or Chaotic depending on circumstances

Saving/Healing Relationship – Good act, may be Lawful as well

Divorce – determined by motive, rarely Good, but may not always be Evil, could be Lawful or Chaotic depending on laws, culture, and circumstances

Subverting Relationship – Chaotic and usually Evil

Sexual Harrasment – Minor Evil, may even be serious or major depending on circumstances.

Speech

Lying – almost always a Chaotic act, but may be Evil if the lie is truly harmful or may be Good if it is to protect life. (White Lie 1 Chaotic)

Lying in order to protect a cover identity depends greatly on the motives for doing so. If it is for survival of oneself or one’s group then it is a Neutral act – kind of like self-defense. If it is for the purposes of subversion it is a Chaotic act. If it is to get close to someone in order to betray them then it is also an Evil act. If it is in the service of a principle or organization as for instance a spy or undercover policemen then it is not really a Lawful act but is not inconsistent with a Lawful alignment. This basically has to do with the principle that a Lawful character need only maintain loyalty to single nation, group, set of laws, or code at a time.

Slander – almost always Evil, may even be Chaotic (4 points)

Abuse – may be a minor Evil act, or even a Chaotic one in some circumstances (2 points Evil)

Gossip and other Irresponsible Speech – could be minor Evil or minor Chaotic (1 point)

Sincere Apology – minor Good and/or minor Lawful (1 point)

Giving in to Greed –may lead to Evil or Chaotic acts (1 points)

Giving in to Hatred –may lead to Evil or Chaotic acts (1 points)

False Views – never Good, but could be Lawful, Chaotic, or even Evil if views are known to be false and one adheres to them or propagates them anyway – depends greatly on law, culture and circumstance. False views should be understood to be stubbornly holding to views about how the game world works that clearly contradict how the game world work (for instance that there is no life after death, or that there is no such thing as alignment, or no such thing as deities, or magic or any other thing that the rules and campaign clearly allow for and can be observed at work in the game world).

Alignment Advocacy/Subversion

Advocating an alignment (2 points towards that alignment)

Condoning or otherwise going along with or making no attempt to stop or even protest an act that would cause alignment drift if the character in question were to do it him or herself (1 point towards that alignment)

Imposing or Reinforcing Authority and/or Discipline: Lawful (4 points Lawful)

Subverting or Rebelling against Authority and/or Discipline: Chaotic (4 points Chaotic)

Obeying Local Laws: Lawful act if it is inconvenient to do so but one obeys anyway. In other words one is going out of one’s way to adhere to the law. (2 points Lawful)

Disobeying Local Laws: Chaotic act if to do so would be inconvenient and/or self-destructive. In other words one is going out of one’s way to flout the law. (2 points Chaotic)

Using an aligned spell (2 points towards that alignment)

Desecrating a church or temple (4 points Evil)

Consecrating a church or temple (4 points Good)

Betraying a friend or ally for personal gain (4 points Evil)

Perverting Justice for Personal Gain (6 points Evil)

Disobeying laws – This is normally a Chaotic act, but a Lawful character need only be loyal to one set of principle or laws at a time. So a Lawful character could break those laws that are in conflict with the laws and principles that he or she follows. However, this will not excuse gratuitous law-breaking that is not in conflict with their primary allegiances.

Making amends for a Chaotic and/or Evil act – depends upon what is done and how sincere and how much it actually resolves the original act, may negate some of the drift at the discretion of GM.

Redeeming Evil

In order to redeem and evil character the redeemer must spend an hour a day in conversation with the evil being and make a Diplomacy check. This conversation will revolve around getting the evil being to reflect on and repent of the evil they have done and to cause them to aspire to the good and gain hope of its rewards. This assumes the being is being treated well and will be forgiven of its evil deeds.

“The evil character then make a special Will save, adding his level as a bonus on the saving throw against a DC equal to the good character’s Diplomay check result. The DM can give the same circumstance bonus on the Diplomacy check as for checks made to interrogate prisoners [+2 or even up to +6 for good treatment]. Creatures whose alignments are listed as “always” a specific alignment, and characters who would lose class abilities if they changed alignment (including evil clerics and anti-paladins), gain a +4 bonus on their Will saves. Outsiders with the Evil subtype are immune to redemption in this manner. Neutral (neither good nor evil) characters take a -2 penalty on their Will saves.”(from pp. 28-29 of Book of Exalted Deeds)

“If an evil character fails seven saving throws in a row at any point during the conversion process of redemption, the evil component of his alignment changes to neutral. If a neutral character (including a formerly evil character who has already failed seven saves) fails seven saving throws in a row, his alignment changes to good. The change is permanent.” (from p. 29 of Book of Exalted Deeds)

By “permanent” I will take this to mean it will stay good unless they commit other evil deeds to cause them to drift back to neutrality or even evil. They still have free will after all.

To Magnimar and the Telling of the Acts of Iomedae

Early the next day those items that were to be sold are taken and sold in the marketplace or at Savah’s Armory or at the shop of Maver Kesk, the jeweler. In the end, everyone gets 492 gold and 6 silver pieces. The mithral scroll tube that Rokuro’s letter came in is also sold, though Ameiko keeps the letter. Ameiko, for the time being, keeps the Whispering Shrike as it is a family heirloom, though she does have it brought over to Das Korvut for repairs. In fact, all the treasure belongs to the Kaijitsu family but Ameiko doesn’t contest its salvage by Toshio and his new companions.

Toshio is pleased that Ameiko got at least some of the family heirlooms back after all those years. He hopes Whispering Shrike will see the light of day again. It’d be a shame for a blade like that to rest on a display stand, and he doesn’t recall Ameiko ever using such a blade. Still, if that’s what she wants to do with it, it’s hers to decide, isn’t it?

Ameiko buys a string of horses from Goblin Squash Stables as a horse train for the caravan, as well as commissioning another supply wagon from Wheen’s Wagons. She finds, however, that after these expenses she is short by a 100 gold for what will be needed to pay for the repair of the Whispering Shrike. Toshio puts up the 100 gold to help her. He realizes it’ll make things difficult in Magnimar, but he’s willing to take that risk.

Toshio decides to buy his own horse. He asks Sandru to keep an eye out for a somewhat portable copy of the Tayagama. Sandru responds that he would be happy to do that. Jethrik, goes with Toshio to the market to see if he can find a riding dog. When they return to the stables, Toshio has acquired a beautiful black stallion that he has named Onyx, while Jethrik returns with a big orange mastiff that told him (since gnome’s can speak with animals) that his name was Sherman and that he would be proud to be the gnome’s noble destrier.

Ameiko graciously offers to lend horses to the others for the trip to Magnamar.

“Well, all this talk about securing horses for the trip…  The last time I was back in Magnimar, I could still see beyond my shadow,” says Zeyala. “I am looking forward to traveling with you all, but it’s doubtful I would be able to guide a horse. Ameiko, do you have a horse that is trained to follow a lead horse? At least I wouldn’t need to see where I am going to ride it.” However, after a slight pause Zeyala changes her mind. ”No, I don’t think it would be a good idea for even that. Would anyone be willing to let me share a horse?” she asks. “I travel light.”

Toshio says to her, ” I’d let you ride with me, but if trouble finds us that may not be a good idea. Still, your first idea wasn’t so mad – just mad enough. Let’s see if the hostler has a horse you can use, and we can tether it behind mine.”

Jharad says, “Jethrik should go with Toshio. Zeyala can ride with me.”

“She can ride with me,” Keng also offers.

“Thank you for offering to share your horse,” says Zeyala to the elf and half-orc.

Toshio says, “Regrettably, I don’t think my saddle can handle two, regardless of their stature. Besides, I think Jethrick would do well to get a better sense for riding his new dog. You seem to be the favored passenger, Zeyala. I expect you to keep Keng and Jharad from fighting over you, okay?”

“Hmmm… A little flirtation?” muses Jethrik.

“Seems to be. And who could be blamed for it?” Toshio says to the gnome.

“Um maybe you should ride with Keng.” Jharad says to Zeyala, walking away discomfited by Jethrik’s suggestion.

Keng laughs at the elf’s discomfort, and says, “Well elf she is almost blind so she will never see how small you are.”

Toshio laughs, much amused that Keng tried to make a joke at all.

“I’m told that elves can be skilled swordsmen,” Jethrik comments.

“I’m flattered, so do not think this generosity has gone unnoticed,” says Zeyala.  ”Keng, I’ll ride with you to Magnimar, but on the return trip, I’ll ride with Jharad…if his offer still stands,” she adds with a wink.

Once they set out, Toshio points out that they will arrive by the next evening and that the day after that will be a special holiday for the followers of Iomedae. “Ah! Day of the Inheritor – an auspicious day for our arrival. I can hardly wait!”

Keng asks, “What is the Day of the Inheritor and why should we care?”

“What’s this, you say?” Jethrik asks. “Some of you have not heard the Tale of Iomedae? How she arose in the destruction of the days when prophecies still held true and the darkest evils were burned away by bright holy radiance?”

“Iomedae was not always a goddess. I assume you’ve heard at least that much of the tale. She was just a servant of a god, as our good friend Toshio is… and perhaps we all are. Though even then her responsibility and power were very great.

“Aroden was the patron of Taldor, and it was great and powerful empire in his day. He was the last of the first humans, born of the fabled Azlanti. They who were wiped out when the Starstone fell from the heavens, creating the Inner Sea 10,000 years ago, slaying the entire Azlanti race and plunging the world into a millennium of darkness. How Aroden survived is a wonder, but survive he did. And he raised the Starstone from the depths, creating the Isle of Kortos in the process – the light rising again from the fire. On that island he established Absolom, city of cities! The Kingdom of Taldor and his own godhood were also established that day. Our very history starts then marking it as the Year One of the Absalom Reckoning! As all greatness began with his acts.

“He ascended to the heavens as Taldor’s patron, and for three millennia its rule and glory spread. It covered all of our continent of Avistan, and its frontiers once included even Cheliax! In former days, Cheliax was as fair and good as Taldor was disciplined and great. And Iomedae was born of Cheliax at the height of its virtue.

“Iomedae’s mortal life is the stuff of legend. And if she had not passed the Test of the Starstone, it is fair to say her name would still live on! But pass it she did, when she cast her cloak before her into the Pit of the Starstone in Absalom. Her common wool cloth straightened and expanded into a firm walkway across the gap, allowing her to enter the Starstone Cathedral and take the Test. Though none know what that test involved, it is known that she passed the test and ascended as a goddess. Her deeds and her virtue won her favor with Aroden, and she thereafter became his herald.

“But the world changed…

“As Taldor waned, the priests of Aroden sensed their god’s displeasure and left Taldor. They moved west to Cheliax and held onto their faith and prophecies. They said he would return in 4606 and create a new Age of Glory!

“Instead, that year brought only ruin and death. All Golarian, the whole of our world, was wracked with three weeks of storms. Storms which still rage in the Eye of Abendego. When the skies eventually cleared, the priests found themselves bereft, for Aroden was dead. In the days that followed, Taldor grew more corrupt and licentious and Cheliax held onto its laws at the expense of its soul.

“Iomedae lives on, however, and took up Aroden’s role as protector of humanity and the free peoples of Golarian. Where Aroden was a lawgiver only, her way is of justice, protection and charity. She proved her divinity in the Eleven Miraculous Acts, and her glory shines to this day.

“The Day of Inheritance marks her ascension as our protector, and it is our delight and duty to give thanks on that day.”

Jharad listens to Jethrik’s tale but finds he doesn’t care much for the lawful deities. He finds the tale rich but the content uninspiring.

“A wonderful account, Jethrik,” says Zeyala. “I’m positive my retelling would be no where near as entertaining.”

Keng likes listening to the bard’s story, he finds he is captivated by Jethrik’s telling and  tries to keep track of the many people, lands and dates on his fingers but in the end he looses track of the entire story line and ends up hopelessly confused. “Bah,” he says, “give me the Iron Way of Gorum any day. I doubt she even existed!”

Before dark they come to a roadside inn named the Jolly Honey Bear. The inn has a sign upon which is painted a small bear that is burying its snout in a jar of honey that it is holding with its front paws. The inn itself has terribly low ceilings, the reason for which is because the proprietor is a halfling named Smead who misjudged how high he needed to make the ceilings. Still, it is a comfortable enough place. For dinner, broiled mackerel, pan-fried trout, and boiled eels are on the menu. A “deliciously delectable” sour cream apple pie is also being prepared according to the unctuous halfling. If they need rooms, he offers a couple of private rooms for 2 gold each, and a suite with a good lock and its own fireplace for 16 gold. The first two can comfortably accommodate two, while the latter perhaps three people. Otherwise, guests can sleep in the common room for 5 copper. Loan of a chamber pot will be 5 copper, and if anyone needs a “bedwarmer” then either of the serving wenches or the stable boy can be hired for a couple of gold.

Jharad pays for and takes one of the private rooms, as does Jethrik who is feeling flush with coin. Jharad then settles into the common room with an ale. Jethrik also comes down to eat and drink with the others. Keng, Zeyala, and Toshio all chose to sleep by the fire in the common room.

When the party is back on the road early the next morning, Zeyala says, “Well, since we will be on the road for some time, I can share some details about the Acts of Iomedae, if anyone cares to listen. I’ll try to keep things interesting, but this is all from my time spent studying.”

“The Acts of Iomedae,” she continues, “were eleven miracles performed by the goddess Iomedae throughout the continents to the north and south of the Inner Sea. These were performed as a demonstration of Aroden’s might.”

“These miracles are recounted in the holy text of her faith which is called The Acts of Iomedae, or simply The Acts among her faithful. They chronicle legendary episodes of heroism of the then mortal goddess that provide examples of her virtues. Though the details vary between regions, they all have the same theme. Iomedae herself acknowledges that its the lessons that are important and not the particulars. I can recount the Acts, if you’d like to hear them,” offers Zeyala.

“Do the stories involve fighting and gold?” Keng asks.

“Indeed Keng,” replies Zeyala. ”These acts were no simple tests to merely ponder. They required valor, honor, strength, and indeed battle. The reward was immortality as she ascended into godhood. For her followers, glory in war. Toshio, might you have insight on the Acts from a warriors perspective?”

“Well, it’s pretty simple really. The Acts are solid demonstrations of Iomedae’s worthiness even before attaining divinity. We try to emulate the strength and justice that Iomedae has shown by taking joy in battling evil and actively eliminating it. We protect the innocent and those who cannot protect themselves. Keng, you might appreciate some of the tenets of Iomedae: ‘A sword without the warrior’s heart is worthless.’ ‘I am the first into battle and the last to leave it.’ ‘Never abandon a companion.’ ‘Never refuse a challenge from an equal.’ And ‘Death before dishonor.’ Of course there are others, but I’ll save those for another time.”

Keng is rapt with the story. He blurts out, “I like this Iomedae! ‘…I am the first into battle and the last to leave it…’ What a fine mate she would make! Where can I find such maidens?”

“Ha ha! I thought you would like that, Keng. Maidens with such fine qualities are rare, but if you are to find them, they’ll be visiting the Iomedae’s temple or on the field of battle, of course.”

Keng leans toward Jharad and whispers loudly, “Perhaps we should seek these battle maidens? I bet they are fierce once captured,” he ends with a feral grin and wink.

Amused that Keng is having fun at his expense, Toshio replies, “Ah! But you might find that difficult. Did I mention the tenet of Iomedae that says, ‘I will not be taken prisoner by my free will’? So you’ll have to win such maidens through other means. Good luck with that.”

“I fear not their interest. My battle prowess speaks for me!” Keng states as he slaps his chest.

“Of course you don’t!” rejoins Toshio. “Why would you? And they’re sure to take notice of you on the battlefield.”

Keng’s face screws itself up as he tried to puzzle out what Toshio said and whether it’s a compliment or an insult, then he shrugs his shoulders and replies, “Samurai, you speak in riddles.”

Toshio chuckles. “I suppose it seems that way at times.”

By the time they reach Magnimar, between Zeyala and Toshio, the 11 Acts of Iomedae are recounted.

Zeyala begins with the first and second acts. In the First Act, Iomedae slayed the monster Nakorshor’mond and cut the unconscious bodies of her circle of knights from the beast’s stomachs.

In her Second Act, she defeated a coven of witches in the city of Eleder, freeing the city from their tyranny.

“Her Third Act must have been spectacular to see!” comments Toshio. “Flying a griffon, she took on Segruchen the Iron Gargoyle and hacked his wings from his body, sending the so-called King of the Barrowood plummeting to the ground. He created a crater on impact, and before he could get out of it Iomedae was upon him and slew him.”

Toshio continues, “Calling upon Aroden’s then-herald Arazni, Iomedae convinced a regiment of mortally wounded knights at the Second Battle of Encarthan to stay their ground against a horde of wraiths until reinforcements arrived at dawn to rescue them. What a proud lot to be part of! No doubt they knew the value of what they’d done. This was the Fourth Act.

Zeyala then recounts what is now considered her Fifth Act, when Iomedae smote Erum-Hel at the Battle of Three Sorrows, forcing the crippled Lord of the Morghs into hiding.

Toshio next recounts the Sixth Act of Iomedae clearly demonstrates her divine favor with Aroden.  When the Whispering Tyrant shattered her sword, Iomdae instantly reforged it! It was fused together again with her prayer and her oath to end the wizard king’s evil.

Zeyala recounts the Seventh Act was the calling of the Undenying Light in Absalom. As a terrible storm shrouded the city in darkness, a pack of sea-ghouls attacked the city. The then-mortal Iomedae called for the Starstone to light the city; the Starstone Cathedral glowed with blue fire, and the stars shone rays of light that targeted the ghouls and allowed Iomedae and the city’s defenders to destroy them.

“The eighth Act was probably the toughest, but perhaps the most compassionate,” Toshio states. “She convinced the graveknight known as the Black Prince to throw himself upon his sword as punishment for his evil. This righteous suicide redeemed the undead knight’s soul and allowed him to be judged in the Halls of Aroden. I often wonder how that conversation went. I mean, what can you say to a truly evil person of great power that will get them to repent so thoroughly? Alas, those details are lost now.”

Zeyala continues, “In order to free nine righteous knights from imprisonment by the vampire-mage Basilov, Iomedae gave nine drops of her own blood. This, appropriately enough, was her ninth Act. When Basilov attempted to recapture them, she and the knights slew him.”

“Hehe. Got what he deserved, eh?” Toshio asks rhetorically.

Toshio recounts the next one. “For her tenth Act (‘though I’m sure she wasn’t keeping score) Iomedae ruled the city of Kantaria in the absence of its rightful lord, the heirless patriarch of House Narikopolous. This she did for a year and a day, bringing prosperity to the city despite constant attacks by shapechanging horrors (and as we’ve learned, shapechangers are a particularly wicked and devious form of evil!), which she battled personally.”

Toshio ends by telling the tale of the last of the Acts of Iomedae. “In her eleventh and final miraculous act before ascending to godhood, Iomedae cast her cloak before her into the Pit of the Starstone in Absalom; the common wool cloth straightened and expanded into a firm walkway across the gap, allowing her to enter the Cathedral and take the Test. It may not seem like such a grand Act as the others, but like the Sixth Act, it shows how close to divinity she had already come and how much of Aroden’s power she had been entrusted with. No mortals were present to witness the Test, but I’m sure it surpassed all the Acts. Iomedae’s example is truly something worth aspiring to.”

Finishing, Toshio rides quietly a while, contemplating the Acts and considering how he has (or has not) measured up to such a standard.

They come within sight of Magnimar, the City of Monuments, late in the afternoon. It is indeed a city of towering monuments, and also elegant gardens, ostentatious architecture, and elaborate sculptures built by Korvosan outcasts a century before. The sheer cliff known as Seacleft, the ancient Irespan, and the comparatively recent Arvensoar tower dominate the city. The Seacleft, cuts through the city’s heart, dividing Magnimar into two major sections: the Summit, upon the cliff’s top, and the Shore, below. Visible for miles out to sea, the ancient basalt bridge known as the Irespan dominates Magnimar’s coastline. Jutting north into the Varisian Gulf from a prominent foundation upon the Seacleft, the Giant’s Bridge, as it is sometimes called, soars more than 300 feet above the city below. The bridge is an obvious remnant of doomed Thassilon, an empire that fell along with its rival Azlant 10,000 years before when the Starstone struck Golarion. A third section of the city, the Shadow, lies beneath the Irespan, a place where the sun rarely reaches. The Arvensoar is the tallest structure in Magnimar and a wonder in a city of architectural feats. It stands approximately 400 feet tall, climbing the entire height of the Seacleft from the Shore to the Summit and extending a hundred feet above it. The great tower is the garrison of the city’s watch and small military, as well as being a quick city-controlled connection between the Shore and the Summit. Beyond these mundane uses, the tower is a symbol of the city’s unity, ambition, and history. Magnimar’s sprawling slate rooftops and marble avenues stretch east from the foundations of the unsurpassable Irespan atop the Seacleft to just beyond the western banks of the Yondabakari River.

Toshio finds the view of the city remarkable, just as it had been on his few earlier visits. He leads his companions from the Lost Coast Road to the Marches’ Castlegate, the entrance for common traders and travelers. At the Castlegate, the bored watchmen on duty subject them to a cursory inspection and collect a copper a person as an entrance toll. They are also warned to put away their weapons and armor as soon as they find lodging, with the exception of swords and daggers for personal protection. Exceptions are also made for those belonging to priesthoods and knightly orders in good standing with the Office of the Lord-Mayor and the Council of Ushers, such as the priesthood of Iomedae and the Hellknight’s Order of the Nail.

As a member of one of the orders receiving the exception, Toshio appreciates being able to carry his weapons.  Still, he doesn’t plan on carrying much more than his katana and a dagger, so it makes little difference.

Once past the Castlegate they enter into the district known as the Marches, where many of the simpler craftsmen and merchants live. They follow the avenue called the Founder’s Processional straight north to the Seerspring Garden, a park boasting a spring of crisp, clear water. The Seerspring Garden marks the center of Keystone, the Shore’s central district. Impressive and intimidating buildings of basalt line the four avenues radiating out form the park. Behind these are the townhouses and close streets of Magnimar’s commoners.

Keng is busy looking at everything. He is actually quite excited. He has never been in such a magnificent city before and is utterly amazed at the buildings and monuments. He leans toward Jharad and asks, “So where are these Shadows Lands?”

“Best we get lodging first,” answers Jharad. “Then we can go looking for trouble,” he says with a mischievous grin.

 Toshio says, “I plan to see if the temple has room for me, but on the eve of a holiday I doubt it. It not available, I’d like to find an inn close to the temple. But before that, let’s talk about our plans. I’d like to travel home with you, but I don’t know exactly how long my errands will take. Shall we agree to check in at the inn each night, and leave word if any of us plans to depart the following day?”

Jharad replies, “Agreed. Good plan Toshio. Which inn do you suggest?”

“The Empty Hat, which we passed not long ago, would probably suit you well. I’ll check in with you there, and if need be, you can leave word with me at the Cross-guard inn, where I plan to stay. It’s closer to the temple.” Toshio can’t keep a bit of a wry smile off his face as he suggests the latter. “You could stay there, too, if you wish.” The possibilities of what might happen with this group among a clientele of Iomedae devotees could be highly amusing – or disastrous!

“Not my crowd…” Jethrik growls, “but you may find me reciting my Tale of Iomedae there. Pilgrims… they think they have to tip well to show devotion! Ha!”

“I must seek out a shrine devoted to Pharasma to make an offering,” says Zeyala. ”I too will see if my church can provide me accommodations. Though I have no specific plans, perhaps some shopping and visiting some landmarks might be in order. I think it is wise to discuss our plans to see if our paths lead to the same districts.”

“Agreed,” Toshio says. “And your company will be most welcome. I too have some shopping to do. Perhaps you can help me with it?”

Jharad says to Jethrik and Keng, “It is just the three of us then, as the temple goers have their own plans. Lets share a private room and make plans for the evening. Maybe you know a good pub, Jethrik, which we could visit. Or at least start at.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Jethrik replies.

Keng nods his head.

Going around to the northwest side of the park they arrive at the whitewashed fortress-temple of Iomedae with its soaring arches, pillared courtyards, decorative fountains, and marble statues of past priests, knights, and crusaders of Iomedae. Stained glass tells the story of Iomedae’s Acts, and everywhere can be seen the sword and sunburst symbol of the goddess. The fortress-temple is also full of priests and pilgrims. They are dressed in their cleanest and finest white and gold trimmed cassocks and chasubles and wear swords at their hips as they practice their swordsmanship, kneel in prayer, or prepare for the next day’s solemn services and other commemorations of the Day of Inheritance.

Seeing all the fine whiteness of Iomedae’s followers, Toshio hopes his own humble clothes (actually quite nice, but he’s a bit self conscious with so much finery around him) won’t bring any shame to the temple.

The major-domo, Sir Varinius, greets them at the gate, recognizing Toshio immediately. “Sir Toshio, it is good indeed to see you again,” says the elderly priest as he reaches out with a hearty handshake. “And who are your friends?” he asks, with an unmistakable raising of his right eyebrow when he sees that Toshio is traveling in the company of a beautiful Varisian woman, a gnome, an elf, and a half-orc.

Toshio smiles, happy to see him. “Sir Varinius! It’s good to be back. Allow me to introduce Miss Zeyala, a healer of Pharasma and of inestimable value. This fine elf is Jharad. He has recently kept up his people’s reputation for both magic use and dexterity with a sword.”

Jharad nods his head at his introduction but says nothing.

“Jethrick here is an entertainer, quite quick with his tongue.”

“That’s what she said.” Jethrik quips.

“Jethrik, you cad,” says Zeyala while playfully pulling her scarf to cover her face. “And you said you’d never tell.”

Jethrik breaks into a big grin and blushes.

Toshio continues, “Lastly, this large fellow is Keng. He can use that big axe to great effect, and though he may not recognize it, he appreciates many of the values our goddess espouses.”

“Good Sir,” says Zeyala with a slight curtsey. ”It’s my pleasure to make your acquaintance. May the gods show you favor. I would like to give offerings to Pharasma. It’s been nearly two decades since I was last here. Has her temple remained at the same location?”

Varinius grimaces upon being asked about Pharasma, but he quickly restores his pleasant expression and replies, “As I’m sure you know, the main temple of Pharasma is the Cenotaph in Bridgeward upon the Summit. That will stand as long as this city does. However, I am sure you mean the Midwives’ Shrine on the other side of the Seerspring. Yes, that is still there, for those who are soon to give birth who would rather not visit her as the Lady of Graves but rather the Midwife.”

“How have things fared here in the city of late? What news?” Toshio asks. “There have been goings-on in Sandpoint, but out here in the hot sun is not the best place for the telling. Have you got time for a cool drink and a chat?”

“Alas Toshio, we are all busy here preparing for tomorrow, otherwise I would certainly like to take time to chat. However, if you go in to the barracks I think you will find refreshment, though I doubt any beds are still available if you were thinking of spending the night here. You might need to try the Cross-guard, though even they might be full.”

In the barracks, Toshio and the others are brought refreshment: very light lagers and some bread and cheese, by young men and women in simple white garments. Toshio learns that the barracks are indeed full. A page is sent to Chaplain Tira Ronnova. When the page returns he informs Toshio that the chaplain will see him after the evening prayers in the main hall of the temple.

At the Cross-guard, Toshio finds that the rooms are indeed all taken, and even in the space in the main room is too full to comfortably accommodate any other pilgrims. The beleaguered innkeeper is quite apologetic. “I am very sorry milord, if only you had sent word beforehand I would have reserved a room for you. As it is, I only have an empty paddock or two in the stable, but I imagine you may want to find another inn. Certainly there may be some in the Marches with rooms or at least a space before the hearth more suitable for you. I cannot apologize enough milord.”

To the innkeeper of the Cross-guard he says, “No apologies necessary. It’s my own fault for showing up so late unannounced. I’ll remember that for my next visit.”

Turning to his companions, Toshio asks, “Well, shall we head back to the Marches and find ourselves some rooms?”

Zeyala and Jethrik know the way to the Empty Hat in the Marches. It is just off of the Founder’s Processional. The Empty Hat is a tidy and modest inn, also affordable and famed for its mascot – a pseudodragon named Lil’ Thunder, the companion (not pet!) of the innkeeper. As they enter, Lil’ Thunder squawks at them in greeting and flies up to the chandelier.

Reswinkle, the innkeeper, looks up and smiles heartily to see Zeyala and Jethrik. “How now! I wasn’t expecting to see any of you back so soon. Is Sandru with you?”

“Hello Rez! No dirty jokes, now!” Jethrik warns pointing to Toshio. “Sandru is back at Lil’ Sandy. He said something about caravan something or other, but we know its because he couldn’t leave Ameiko.” Jethrik chuckles as his little joke. “How have you and Lil’ Thunder been. Has he found an iguana to make his lady fair?”

“All is well. The Day of Inheritance is tomorrow, and that has drawn in some pilgrims. Most of them are either staying at the Temple of Iomedae or the Cross-guard so there are a couple of rooms here if you need them.”

Lil’ Thunder hisses at Jethrik and says something unintelligible in Draconic. Then it flies off in a huff.

Jharad speaks Draconic and knows that Lil’ Thunder said, “Not very funny little hole dweller. Do you mate with badgers?” Jharad laughs.

“I’ll take one of your good rooms. You can pawn off the other ones on the big stupid folks, not naming anyone in particular of course. Oh, have you met my friends Toshio and Keng? Toshio is here to celebrate that thing tomorrow… what is it called again? And Keng is huge, a half orc barbarian. Once you get to know him, you’ll see other sides to his personality like for instance… Well… Oh, and Jharad. He’s an interesting sort. Keep him away from young boys.”

Jharad slaps the gnome upside the head but smiles nonetheless.

Reswinkle says teasingly, “I think our broom closet is free if you need a private room. Aside from that I have a couple of private rooms available for bigger folk. The beds in them are big enough for two, as long as they don’t mind the company. Still, that might be a problem…” He looks at Zeyala, and its not hard to guess that he’s wondering if she’ll take a room with one of the other men or if she’ll take a room all for herself, and where the others will stay if she does. In any case, he wonders where will Jethrik stay if the other four take the two rooms, all kidding about broom closets aside. He knows that Jethrik does indeed prefer his own room when he’s in town.

Jharad quickly places some gold on the counter in front of Reswinkle. “I will take one of those. Zeyala you are welcome to join me if you wish. You will be perfectly safe as apparently I am into little boys.” He slaps the gnome again.

Jethrik takes out a gold coin and plays with it. “Huh, the broom closet… well, I guess there’d be a lot of change back on this. You know, since small rooms go for a small price.” He smiles. “Look, I can take a cot if you’re worried about space. We’ve been lodged in worse digs than yours… so you know we’ve been through a bit recently. Just make sure my friends have it easy here. We’ve already hit up a couple other inns closer to the temple and we can’t find a room. I wanted to show ‘em a place that they might want to come back to. You know I’ll be back. I’d miss that grumpy lizard of yours. Does he still try to steal a drink out of the patron’s mugs?”

Reswinkle replies, “That he does, that he does.” He takes 2 gp from Jharad for his private room (with a lock – average – on the door). “I can put a cot in the one of the private rooms for no extra charge.”

Toshio says, “Zeyala, you can have the other private room of course.”

“Thank you. That will be splendid,” she replies.

Turning to Reswinkle Toshio asks, “Have you any space in the common room left? I don’t need so much privacy.”

Reswinkle nods. “Of course, of course. For 5 coppers I can reserve a space by the fire for you and bring you out a blanket and a mat.

“I’ll take a blanket and will sleep on the floor,” says Keng.

Jharad interrupts, “I was serious about the offer Zeyala, that will free up the other room for the others.” Without waiting for an answer he continues to Reswinkle, “Yes, I will need a cot in my room.”

“Well, I had intended to seek lodging with the temple, but the hour is late, so it would make sense to stay at the inn,” says Zeyala.  ”I’ll take you up on your offer, Jharad…about the room that is.”

Pfff.. If no one else is taking it, I’ll have my own room,” says Jethrik.

Toshio asks, “Jharad, may I stow my armor and gear in your room for now?”

“Of course, I am heading up there now. Leave it there until we head back to Sandpoint if you wish.”

Jharad leaves his chain shirt up in his room, figuring that they will not be venturing onto a battlefield that evening.

Zeyala and Jethrik also leave their chain shirts and other belongings up in the rooms.

Keng stowes his pack but keeps his armor, axe and dagger with him.

After their accommodations are taken care of the five have supper together at the inn. That night at the Empty Hat the featured dish is Magnimarian Stewed Pigeons, as well as plenty of black bread and honeyed butter. And of course there is ale to wash it down. After supper, discussion turns to which taverns to check out.

Seeing that Keng is still fully armed and armored, Toshio suggests, “Keng, except for the local guardsmen, going around town fully armed and armored is a bit like shouting ‘I’m here to make trouble!’ and will earn you no friends. You should consider changing your attire.”

“So?” Keng truculently responds.

“So nothing. I’m just trying to help you avoid trouble except that which you choose for yourself.”

Jharad laughs at Toshio’s attempt to persuade Keng. “No tavern will let you in dressed for war. Stow your armor and axe in my room with Toshio’s gear. Take a dagger if you want but I am sure those meaty hands of yours will do fine in a brawl. Simply put, leave the heavy stuff or you can’t go drinking with us.”

“Listen to the elf. He knows this place, too,” says Toshio.

“That’s low blow,” says Jethrik. “Hitting a man in his thirst!”

“Well when you put it that way!” Keng continues, “Can I leave my gear in your room?” Once this is done they talk again about where to go first.

“Well, I have an excellent suggestion!” Jethrik beams. “The Slippery Plow! The entertainment is first rate.” Without waiting for further discussion, he heads off to get Sherman, his riding dog. “We Ride!” he cries and is out the door with a mighty “Woof!”

“So, Jharad, where are we going?” asks Keng.

Jharad barks a laugh, turns to Keng and repeats, “Apparently… We Ride!” and follows the gnome to The Slippery Plow.

Keng nods and says, “finally.”

Rokuro’s Letter

After reaching the harbor and unloading their cargo, Toshio returns the boats to the owners. He makes sure to tell how much help the boats were. In addition, he hands 5 silvers each to the owners of the two boats they used as a token of his appreciation for their use. This is an unexpected but pleasant surprise to the two fisherman, as they had not expected any recompense for what they saw as practically a civic duty to lend boats to the watch to get rid of the goblin scourge.

To the others, indicating the chest and other items, Toshio says, “Let’s take this to Ameiko. I’m sure she’ll be willing to hold it for us while we make our reports or take care of other business. We can gather at the Rusty Dragon when we’re finished to divide the items. Sandru will probably be there, and we can enlist his help in selling those items we won’t put to use.”

He helps carry the items to Ameiko’s tavern and stays just long enough to see that they are safely kept. Ameiko is quite relieved that they have all safely returned and amazed that they have brought back such treasures from the Brinestump. She readily agrees to keep the chest, armor, sword, and crystals for them in a locked storage room next to the wine cellar.

Jethrik heads out to get a bath and hire a laundress at the Pixie’s Kitten. As there is some extra scrubbing involved, he tips handsomely. Afterwards, he returns to the Rusty Dragon for drinks and dinner.

Keng, however, heads over to Rovanky Tannery to see if Shalelu’s pouch is ready. It is in fact ready. Keng sees that it is of fine workmanship and the embossed crest of the Andosana family matches the specifications he gave. He checks and makes sure that the fishing line and hook, and the flint and steel are indeed inside. All of it costs him 3 gp. Then he returns to the Rusty Dragon and settles in for something to eat. Ameiko brings him a roast goose with applesauce and a tankard of ale. When asked about Shalelu, however, she shakes her head sadly and tells him that unfortunately Shalelu has still not made an appearance.

Keng closely examines the pouch and finds it very nice. He is glad he got it and hopes Shalelu will like it. He wonders again where she is and how much longer he should wait before he takes a job as a caravan guard and departs. He puts the pouch into his pack and settles in for the evening at the inn.

Jharad had said little on the return trip, being deep in contemplation of the events that had transpired since his return to the area. Since it is midafternoon when they get back to town, Jharad visits Koya first for a long overdue conversation. He finds her in her wagon, parked with Sandru’s two wagons in the Sandpoint Market a block away from the Rusty Dragon.

“Oh Jharad! You’re back from the marsh! The horror is over now I hope?”

Jharad smiles at his sister, “For now, yes. I think that marsh will always be home to some denizens or other whose intentions are against Sandpoint. I think regular scouting and clearing expeditions are warranted. I am sure Toshio will suggest as much to the sheriff. The Licktoad goblins are no more as far as we are aware. Their village has been cleared. That map we found lead us to some shipwrecks that may to linked to Ameiko’s family also – and to some undead which we also cleared. It is all very interesting. I am sure there is more to follow up on.”

“There always is. There always is.” She ruffles her Harrow deck and gazes down on them, then back into Jharad’s eyes. “There is always something dying and something else being born. They cycle is beginningless and endless, for all we know. Maybe even Desna herself does not know if there is truly a beginning or end to it. When you last saw me, I was a woman, now I am an old lady.” She laughs ruefully. “I am sure you have changed to, though with the fair folk it is a slower change.”

She pauses and then says, “I do wish, however, that I had been a better follower of Desna – a true explorer like mother. Did you know that she went as far north as the Land of the Linnorn Kings and as far south as Qadira? I’ve never gone beyond the borders of Varisia. I fear I have squandered the years allotted to me.” She shakes her head. “Well, enough of sad regrets. You must tell me about Kyonin and the elven wizards and magi.”

“There is always time, Koya – until there is not. If you wish to travel then travel; I may be tempted to travel with you actually.”

Smiling, his mind turns to the forests of the elven homeland. “My time in Kyonin was wondrous. To be surrounded by those of my own race, immersed in the culture of my birth. It was familiar yet alien. Like visiting a life I should have had, not knowing whether to have missed out is for the better. Or not. Truth is I am glad to be home yet Desna’s will is strong and the wanderlust has grabbed me. If nothing else was learned from my college experience it is that what I did learn is but a few grains of sand lost in a beach stretching beyond view in either direction. I would explore that beach in both directions for as long as I walk this plane of existence.”

As Koya listens her hands repeatedly cut the Harrow deck in her hands. She even does a one-handed cut, which Jharad remembers her attempting to learn when she was a young girl. Now her hands are quite deft as she cuts, riffles, and waterfalls the deck. Laying them out face down on the small silk covered table in front of her and scooping them up again. Her eyes never leave Jharad’s. “Well, it may be that we will get a chance to travel if there was any truth in my earlier premonitions. But whither to, and whether the journey will be one of good or ill, I cannot say. People believe these cards are magic.” She stops shuffling, having stacked all the cards together again. She frowns at them. “They are not. They may focus the spellcasting of the wielder, and sometimes they may channel messages to us from the spirits or the gods or fate. Most times, however, my readings are just based on my ability to read people and guess their true desires and fears. My fortunes are simply the telling of tales that the images suggest to me that may be relevant to the inquirer, but they are tales of the usual cycles of ordinary life played out more times than perhaps even the gods can count infused with just a bit of drama to make things interesting but enough hope to allay people’s fears and allow them to make the right choice. I don’t presume to tell the future but only of what can be if people will only dream larger dreams but also keep their wits about them. Still, on occasion I can perceive the immediate outcome of certain choices, and by immediate I mean within the span of time it takes to burn a stick of incense from Tian Xia. Maybe Desna will grant me greater foresight in response to my prayers in days to come. Still, what I felt back at the inn the other night seemed like a true seeing. Something is about to be discovered and we may all get our wishes. And you know what they say about wishes…” She grins, reminding Jharad of the little girl and beautiful young woman she was not so long ago by his reckoning. “Be careful of what you wish for,” she finishes and cackles melodramatically. She swiftly pockets the cards and stands. “Why don’t we go to the inn brother of my heart? I am thirsty and maybe your new friends are waiting for you.”

Jharad agrees and so they walk together to the Rusty Dragon. On the way there, Jharad casually asks about how Shalelu is doing these days.

Koya chuckles. “Oh yes, I remember you had a crush on her in the days before you left. We haven’t seen her for a few months, but she is still around. You don’t need me to tell you that a few months are but a moment to an elven ranger. I believe she has been spending time with her human stepfather at Fort Rannick by Hook Mountain. She may be there, or on her way here now, or patrolling some other parts of Varisia.”

Toshio and Zeyala, in the meantime, go to the sheriff and report on what was done in the marsh. In addition to the basic facts, Toshio notes, “The halfling, Proudstump, noted that just because the caves had been cleared in part the day before didn’t mean something else dangerous hadn’t moved in. Sandpoint could apply that lesson to the whole marsh. I think it would be wise of us to send patrols through the marsh from time to time, so no monsters get the idea it’s a safe place for them. We could even do similar patrols in the areas surrounding the town. I know it would mean more time and effort, and especially more training, but it would be good training for the guard in the first place. And I’m sure it would be worthwhile.”

Sheriff Hemlock chuckles good-naturedly at this suggestion. “That would be a wonderful idea, Toshio, if we had the man power. You know we only have about a dozen full time watchmen, and of those only three or four of you are ever on shift at a time. The rest of the milita are only three score and some, and they are just farmers and fishermen with spears who we can only call away from their work during an imminent crises. Why do you think we had to put out a bounty just to call in adventurers like that half-orc and Jharad just to get rid of the goblins? As for the marsh, frankly, I think you all got lucky. You could just as easily have all been wiped out and never heard from again. It’s a good thing you did take Zeyala or it sounds like you would have been. My thanks, good lady,” he bows in her direction. “Most days the fishermen follow their trail and are never harassed. I have no doubt that sending patrols along those trails will not come up with much either – during the day when the dark things are hiding in their holes. And if they go in at night – well, I doubt they would come back at all. Sorry, Toshio. Now that the Licktoads are taken care of and you’ve destroyed their skeletal guardians that the goblins disturbed, I think the marshes are best left alone.”

“Sheriff, I made a terrible mistake back at Proudfoot’s home,” admits Zeyala. “I put myself in grave danger because of my lack of experience. This creature had me fooled. I was unable to pick up on its cues and it cost me dearly. If not for the others, I surely would have perished. However, I believe I erred on the side of law which I will continue to follow, though I will be more cautious in the future.”

Sheriff Hemlock takes a moment to consider this. “I think Toshio did rightly in conducting a search when he did. It certainly turned out to be the right call. But I commend you on not wanting to disturb Proudfoot’s privacy. I don’t really see any way you could have known it was not Proudfoot. You never met him before, and you were expecting an eccentric recluse. What cues could you have picked up on? That he wanted to be left alone? The real Proudfoot wants to be left alone. Rest easy Zeyala. You too, Toshio. You both did what you thought was right, and fortunately it worked out. It is a good thing you were all there looking out for each other, and in the caves as well. Is there anything else you need to tell me?”

Toshio responds, “Yes, sheriff, I need to go to Magnimar. I mean to set out either tomorrow or the next day. It’s very important that I go, so I apologize for not being available for the watch. I will, of course, report back as soon as I return.”

The sheriff smiles and says, “You have certainly earned some time off. Go with my blessings.

Jharad enters the Rusty Dragon with Koya and joins Keng. He speaks up to Ameiko, “Ales all around over here.”

Settling into his chair he says, once they receive their ales, “Now this is better. A nice tavern, good drink. No wading around in flooded caves, animated bones and goblin innards. A toast to clearing the Brinestump of at least a few of its nasties.”

Keng nods and replies, “Nice inn, good ale.”

Jethrik enters and joins the others, dropping into a seat where he can admire Ameiko. He lights his pipe and blows long trails of smoke that take the shape of multicolored moths that circle the candles and disappear in a shower of sparks when they hit the flames. ”Hmm, now that I have a little coin to jiggle in my pouch, I may have to find some trouble in a real town instead of this backwater.”

Keng looks at the bard and asks perplexedly, “Why do you want to find trouble?”

“To see if it can handle me!” Jethrik grins.

Keng scrunches up his eyes trying to understand the bard. He shakes his head as if to clear his thoughts and the finger bones woven into his dreadlocks make a soft whispering rattle. He takes another large drought of ale and replies, “I hope you find small trouble then.”

“The Shadow is what you seek. In Magnimar. Lots of trouble to be found there,” says Jharad with an evil grin.

“The Shadow,” asks Keng? “What is that?”

“A district in Magnimar. The bad one,” responds Jharad calmly as he takes another drink. He directs a big smile at Jethrik.

“Does this shadow land have women and fighting?” asks Keng.

“Probably more of both than you want or can handle.”

“Grrr, speak for yourself elf! This shadow land sounds interesting! Let us leave for it in the morning!”

Sandru, who has just walked into the tavern overhears this and says, “Stop goading your companions in mischief good elf. The Shadows will only get you a case of clap and perhaps a lump on the back of the head or a knife in your kidneys, and you won’t even see it coming. If you are serious about having fun and aren’t simply looking for squalor, then go to the Lowcleft district, or The Rubble. That’s where you can get some value for your well-earned coin. Plenty of exotic adventures to be had there if you know what I mean.” He winks and moves on to the bar to greet Ameiko.

Keng spews ale all over the tabletop at this comment.  ”You humans love to talk! Yack yack yack. The only knife that will be sticking is mine. Elf! Let’s us pillage these shadow lands together and leave our names in blood across them!”

“He’s got a point,” agrees Jethrik. “Besides, I know some folks in Lowcleft and had some good audiences there.”

“Well, this sounds promising,” says Zeyala who had made her way over to Keng and the others and had been listening in on them. ”Fighting and women. Not to mention Keng going around, sticking with his knife. What are we waiting for?”

Zeyala orders ale and then takes a seat near Koya. “Nothing like drink and friends,” she says while lighting up her clay pipe.

In response to Keng, Jharad writes his full name (in Elvish) in thick blood in the air so that it begins to drip down onto the table. “Done,” he says calmly, leaving it to drip for several seconds before whisking it all away with the wave of his hand.

Keng laughs and say, “Elf, I like you. You are amusing!”

Jharad smiles and says, “Sandru is right though, we would have a much better time in the Rubble. Looks like we are going to Magnimar. Zeyala, Jethrik, you in?”

“The people of Magnimar would be heartbroken if I stayed away.” Jethrik says with a wink and a flourish.

Toshio is not eager to share his reasons for the trip to Magnimar, so when he entered the inn with Zeyala, he approached Ameiko at the bar while the others were busy talking at their table. A smile crosses his face and stays there as he enters – Ameiko just has that effect on him. “Hello my friend,” he says cheerfully. “How have you been since we left? Has there been any news worthy of note?”

Ameiko smiles back in the midst of pouring a mug of ale from the tap. “All is quiet thanks to all of you brave heroes.” She winks and hands him the ale.

“We’ve got some tales to tell you, but I think Jethrick might be upset if I gave away the ending before he had a chance to make a full epic of it. Suffice it to say, you were only mostly correct about letting the dead lay. But as you can see, we made it back alright. The rest will have to wait until tonight. And thank you for holding those items for us, by the way.”

“It’s no problem. The least I can do for you all,” she replies.

Toshio casually adds, “I am going to Magnimar tomorrow, or maybe the day after. Is there anything I can bring back for you from the city?” he offers cheerfully.

She thinks about this for a moment. “Well, I certainly liked the fan you gave me. A beautiful piece – and it came with a story! Those are two of the things I like the most. If you find anything else like that I certainly wouldn’t refuse it. But please don’t trouble yourself.”

“Oh, no trouble. But I’ll keep my eyes open, just in case.” Toshio is smiling inwardly because he’s thinking of the Tayagama he plans to acquire – a long collection of classic tales to share with Ameiko. Of course the family copy is too large and expensive for him at the moment, but maybe Sandru can help him get a lesser copy Toshio can use. Toshio also hopes to find something artistic, pretty and functional for her – if he has any cash left after taking care of his responsibilities. ‘No trouble?’ he thinks to himself. ‘I wonder if you have any idea how much trouble I’d go through to please you. And none of it would seem like trouble to me.’

“Oh, and speaking of trouble,” asks Toshio aloud, ”Could I trouble you to use a private room? I don’t think the common room is really the place for us to be discussing the contents of that chest.”

She nods and points to the closed door of the private dining room. “Use that room when you are ready. I’ll make sure no one disturbs you and will bring your drinks and dinner in there myself. I’ll also bring the chest and other things up out of storage when you’re ready. Though perhaps you or Keng could help me haul it up.”

“Thank you, Ameiko. You are always the most gracious of hostesses,” says Toshio when the arrangements are complete. “You could join us if you can pull away from your other customers,” Toshio suggests hopefully (although he knows there’s little chance she’ll be able to). “You might find some of the things interesting.”

“I’ll peek in if I can. It will be a busy night I think, but Jorgi and Mirelinda will be able to take care of things for a bit.”

Toshio turns to see that all the others are present. “I’d better go rally them up before they drink too much.” Playfully he adds, “Or maybe not. My share might be a bit larger if they’re liquored up, neh?” eliciting a laugh from Ameiko before walking over to join the others at their table.

Toshio joins the others, overhearing their plans to all travel to Magnimar. He has to stop himself from cursing. He even takes a moment to calm his angry thought. ‘Oh great!’ he thinks to himself. ‘It’ll be a cotton-picking parade, with everyone going. Too bad it’s not something I can put off a while.’ Toshio keeps to himself that he’s really not eager for company on his trip. However, he can’t deny that it’s foolish to travel alone, even in such relatively tame lands.

Toshio says to the others, “Before splitting our items we should go to a more private room. Perhaps even before we discuss such things further.”

It takes a few minutes to get Ameiko’s attention as the Rusty Dragon has been steadily filling with townsfolk. The atmosphere is far lighter than it was, now that the Licktoads have met their end and no further threats on Sandpoint seem imminent. More than a few farmers and townies offer toasts to the good health of Toshio, Keng, Jharad, Zeyala, and Jethrik. Ameiko is a whirlwind of constant motion. She practically juggles and spins her many cups, mugs, glasses, and even whole bottles. At times it is almost certain that she must be using mage hand as she hurtles a bottle in the air and it hovers long enough to pour its contents into the row of glasses she slides beneath it. At times her concoctions actually glow and sparkle, and for the ladies in the room who request white wines or more delicate fruity drinks she throws in flowers that actually bloom as the drinks are presented. Clearly Jharad and Jethrik are not the only masters of prestidigitation. Ameiko is not only quick and precise in her movements, but seemingly tireless and has evidently memorized a repertoire of exotic mixtures worthy of an alchemists’ formulary originating from Cheliax to Qadira and perhaps beyond. She does require help lifting a new and very full keg into place, but Jorgi is right at her side to help. There are moments when a customer is overlooked for a bit too long or she forgets which drink goes to whom, but her charm and wit bring quick forgiveness and it is clear that everyone present is quite mesmerized by her performance and eager to be in her good graces. In short, she is the consummate hostess and tavern keeper, the life of the party that is held every evening at the Rusty Dragon. During a brief lull, Ameiko sees that Toshio and the others are ready and as soon as she is able she breaks away to lead them to the private room prepared for them.

As the others head over to the private room for dinner and the division of loot, Zeyala pulls Koya aside. “Koya, the foray into the caves was exhilarating,” say Zeyala.  ”Frightening as well. I knew there were things that will stir the dead, but to see it first hand… Oh, there is so much more out there I want to know and experience.”

Koya nods, “Oh yes, once you get off the beaten path things can get quite hazardous my dear.” She cackles a little in jest –the melodramatic cackle she uses at times when doing her wizened crone routine for clients.

“There is still much for me to learn. Did you hear of the creature at Walthus’ home?” Zeyala asks.

“I don’t believe you’ve had time to tell me of what happened there. I heard something about a shapeshifter. Sorry, but I have no knowledge of such things.”

“I know you have been longing to see more of the world,” says Zeyala. “That is what I want as well.  The others were talking about a trip to Magnimar.  It will be nice to visit my home, as it’s been such a long time since I’ve been back. I was hoping to travel in the opposite direction and to see new lands, but I suppose that will come in due time. We should get back with the others to learn what we came away with from those caves.”

When Zeyala and Koya enter the private dining room, usually dark lit but now with a few extra everlasting torches brought in for more light, the doors are closed and the roar of the revelers in the main room is slightly dulled. On the table, the chest and other items brought back from the Brinestump Marsh have been set down for the perusal of the company, including Sandru, Koya, and Ameiko.

Sandru, with the keen eye of a Varisian caravan merchant, helps them evaluate the worth of the items they have recovered from the cave. Jharad and Jethrik both use their skills and training to determine the exact properties of the magical items.

Five of the potions are determined to be potions of cure light wounds. Toshio, Jharad, Keng, Zeyala, and Jethrik each are given one of these.

Two of the potions are determined to be those that cure moderate wounds - Toshio and Zeyala are given these.

Three potions are for lesser restoration. Jethrick, Zeyala and Jharad are given these.

The ring of climbing is given to Keng.

The wand that can identify magic items with 19 charges left is to be sold. They can probably get 142 gold and 5 silver for it to be divided among the five.

At this point Toshio raises the issue of starting a group fund if those present wish to consider continuing to work together. This discussion is tabled until all the items are evaluated.

The masterwork chain shirt can be sold for 125 gold. Also to be divided.

The masterwork cold iron wakizashi can be sold for 335 gold and Toshio suggests using the proceeds to pay for repairs to the wakizashi with the shrikes on the blade, and then split the balance.

11 Desnan candles, and four skyrockets can be sold to Sandru for 127 gold and 5 silver, he will then sell them somewhere other than Sandpoint (where fireworks are now forbidden by order of Mayor Kendra).

The 3,820 silver and 421 gold pieces in the chest are to be divided.

Sandru determines that the various pieces of fine jewelry are worth 560 gold pieces in total and this too can be divided.

The jade and cherry wood chest itself is worth 250 gold.

Sandru doesn’t think the crystals from the cave would bring in more than 20 gold.

The broken masterwork kikko armor Sandru doesn’t think will be worth the cost of fixing. He suggests throwing it over Junker’s Edge, the cliff on the north side of town overlooking the beach below.

The enchanted wakizashi with the broken hilt is determined to have the ability to cast shield other once per day on someone chosen by the wielder and touched by the blade. It is unusable, however, until it is fixed. Sandru admits to being out of his depth with such an item and suggest that they bring in Das Korvut, the foul mouthed but quite proficient blacksmith of Sandpoint, who is out in the main room drinking whisky and ranting as is his wont.

“Yes please, Sandru,” says Toshio. “Good idea to consult Das Korvut. And how convenient that good Korvut is right here in the Dragon!”

Sandru laughs, “The gods do indeed like to have things fall into place when it suits them. Then again, it is a tavern. Where else would Das be but here in his cups?” Sandru heads out to find Das.

Ameiko marvels at the items, especially the chest, armor, and sword. “Toshio, these things must have come from Minkai, the land our grandparents came from.” It is then they remember that no one has told Ameiko about the names of the two shipwrecks. The nameplates of the Kaijitsu Star and Kaijitsu’s Blossom are behind the chest and still quite dirty, so she has not yet had a chance to look them over.

“Yes!” Toshio says with a smile. “Don’t they fire your imagination? They bring to mind all the tales Opa told me of the old country. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to travel there and see that country in person?” He pauses briefly here as his inner eye wanders to those far off lands.

Jehtrik pushes his face down into the pile of coins “Nom, nom, nom!” lifting his head up again he spits a few coins out. “Delicious! But I don’t think we found everything in that chest. Ameiko, look at the names of these vessels. They are from your family! This may be more money than has ever crossed my palms, but it’s not enough to keep people around after death to protect. There must be a hidden compartment with a letter or something that will explain all this. The story simply can’t end here!”

Bringing himself back to the here-and-now Toshio says, “Yes, these things are not all we found. We came across two wrecked ships as well.” Toshio brings out the nameplates for Ameiko’s examination, brushing them off a bit. “It seems your family once owned a pair of ships. The Kaijitsu Blossom and Kaijitsu Star. We found both in the marsh. Not much left, unfortunately, but at least the names were clear enough. Did your parents ever speak of owning ships?”

Ameiko is quite taken aback to see the nameplates. “Ships? I only remember my father being in the glass blowing business. I didn’t know we ever owned any ships. Of course I knew my grandfather had brought the family over from Minkai long before I was born, but no one has ever sailed from there. And these ships were beached in the Brinestump Marsh?” She shakes her head. “I have always loved stories, but here is story I wish to hear more than any other. Yes, let’s check this chest over again thoroughly.” She pulls the chest over to her to begin looking and then stops and looks at Toshio, “With your permission?”

“Oh, of course! If you can find anything to help us unwind this mystery, by all means, examine the chest.”

As Ameiko looks over the chest, attempting to find any concealed compartments, Sandru leads Das Korvut in. The smith’s breath reeks of whisky but he seems steady enough on his feet. He scratches his balding scalp and asks, “So what do you want me to see?” Sandru hands him the wakizashi. Das stares at it intently for a moment. Tests the balance, takes it by the hilt, and then takes a few swipes with it. He looks at the hilt more intently. Sandru tells him about the magical properties of the sword. The blacksmith whistles and says, “Well now, this is a mighty fine blade. Frackin’ A. Repairing this shite will cost you. Blades like this will go for 6,000 gold or more.”

“Can you repair it?” Sandru asks.

Das scowls. “Does a werebear shite in the woods? Frack yes I can repair it!”

Sandru and Das then dicker back and forth about the price until Das refuses to go any lower than 600 gold. The whole time he keeps examining and fiddling with the hilt. Then he brings the hilt up to look more closely at it. “Huh. What the frack is this?” he asks no one in particular. He then unwraps some of the sharkskin wrap from the hilt and begins to unscrew the end off the pummel. A small scroll tube falls out but Sandru catches it before it can hit the floor.

Sandru’s eyes widen for a moment as he looks at the tube. He closes his hand over it and says to Das, “600 gold it is then. One of us will come by your place tomorrow with the sword so you can begin repairs. Thank you so much for joining us in here to look at it. In appreciation for your discretion, I think Ameiko will be happy to offer you drinks on the house tonight, right Ameiko.”

Ameiko, having given up on the chest, looks up at Sandru and then to Das. She nods, “Just don’t bankrupt me Das, and don’t start any fights.” She leads him back out to the main room and gives instructions to her staff. Das taken care of she returns to the room, closes the door and walks over to Sandru who opens his hand and holds up the tube.

“This tube is made of mithral,” he says quietly. “Shall we see what it contains?”

“Hold on a moment,” Ameiko says. She then casts detect magic on the tube. “There is no magic here that I can sense. Open it up.”

Sandru opens the tube and unrolls a letter written in the characters of Tien on fine paper in black ink. She gasps. “It’s a letter from my grandfather!” She holds out her hand to silence any questions and reads the letter to herself. When she is done she gulps and then gazes at each person in the room, taking their measure. “I think I may need your help in this. Sandru, Koya, I know I can trust your counsel on this. Toshio, Jethrik, you are both dear friends so I would have your advice as well. Jharad, Zeyala, I know you are both trusted by Koya and so I would have your advice and perhaps help as well. Keng, you have shown us all that you are a courageous and honorable warrior. You have already saved many lives, including those of my dear friends on several occasions over the past few days. Though I do not know you well, I would have your advice and help in this as well if you are willing to give it. Please do not share with anyone else what I am about to share with you.”

She then proceeds to translate the contents of her grandfather Rokuro Kaijitsu’s letter into Common:

My son, my heir. You know now that I have kept secrets from you. You were always a perceptive son, and while you may not understand my reasons for secrecy. I hope that you realize it was necessary. Know that I was not angry with you for opening the warding box – I was angry with myself for withholding the truth from you and forcing you to seek out what I should have given to you. The words I spoke to you were from anger with myself, and it shames me to think of them now. I write this note as an apology, and to beg you to leave these secrets to history.

The next few days will be the most important I have faced in many years. If our family’s enemies have, as I hope, forgotten us, I shall reunite with you and your wife, and your mother and I shall reveal the truth to you. But if they still seek the contents of the warding box, I fear that I may not speak to you again. The box holds our family’s greatest treasure, so I have returned it to Kortun’s care, and it shall remain hidden in the secret third vault under Brinewall Castle – obscured from our enemies. I hope and pray. I will not grant our foes the satisfaction of killing me themselves – if it comes to it, let my death, by my own hand, be my final act to protect you, so that our enemies believe our line ended.

I have instructed Tsutamu to keep this letter from you, delivering it to you only should I fail to return as I hope to. If I can, I will reveal all to you myself. If I cannot, this final missive from a father to a son must suffice as an apology in place of an explanation, and you must destroy this letter, flee to the south, and never return to Brinewall. If our enemies find what I have hidden, there will be nothing here for you. If they do not, they will lie in wait forever for your return.

I hope to see you again soon, my son. But my heart tells me I will not. I am sorry to have failed you. But I am proud of you, and I know you will survive this old man’s shame. You are strong, and you must remain so. For if you are reading this and I am gone, know that our enemies will never stop searching for us, and that is why I cannot reveal the truth to you until I know there is no chance of them finding us again.

Rokuro Kaijitsu

Sunday, 29 Desnus, 4687

Sitting comfortable in the back Jharad says casually as if he has known all along, “That wakizashi is the Whispering Shrike. Its previous owner was Tsutamu, Rokuro Kaijitusu’s bodyguard. I remember them both when Sandpoint was established. The letter was clearly intended for your father, Lonjiku, Ameiko.” Smiling at some long ago memory he adds, “He was an overly earnest young man when I knew him.” Pointing at a the faint watermark on the letter he says, “That is the mark for Brinewall. The letter must have been written there. This is quite a family mystery.”

Sandru says, “Brinewall was a colony about 500 miles north of here on the coast. It was founded over 250 years ago, but an unknown scourge destroyed it on the first day of Sarenith in 4687, just a few days after the date on this letter. No one goes near it anymore as it is believed to be haunted, cursed, or both. Caravans going that way to the Lands of the Linnorn Kings give it a wide berth. Please don’t tell me you’re thinking of going there and looking for this lost family treasure in the dungeons of Brinewall Castle.”

A fierce smile comes over Ameiko’s face. “That is exactly what I am going to do.”

Jethrik stands tall, relatively speaking, “You’ll need a person of intelligence on this raid… quest… thing…”

Keng adds, “Well I came to Sandpoint looking for work as a caravan guard but so far I have fared much better protecting you all. I will go too.”

Toshio quietly watches Ameiko’s face while listening to the responses of the others. He is silent a while, reflecting on the various pieces of information in the letter. Slowly, he enumerates aloud the points of the letter that caught his attention. “Your family has a treasure, left in Brinewall, but your grandfather thinks it should be left alone, untouched. I don’t recall ever meeting your grandfather. That means he never got to see his son again, doesn’t it? And your father never got this letter because poor Tsutamu died in the swamp, failing to deliver it. That must have been terrible for him. And so your father never knew of his father’s respect for him. How terribly, terribly sad.”

He pauses to consider further. “This warding box… what could it be?” he asks, mostly to himself. He looks again at Ameiko, quite pointedly. “And most importantly, your family has determined enemies. As the last of your family, that makes them your enemies. Very personal enemies.”

He stands, places his hands on Ameiko’s shoulders and looks her in the eye as he says, “You once said I should let the dead be. I now say that you, Ameiko, should let the dead be. Don’t go to Brinewall. Enemies that can wait forever are waiting for you. Don’t go. That is my advice.”

He steps back to his seat, and as he settles he adds, “But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stay away. Not if I learned that my family had mysterious enemies. I’d need to learn who they were, and why they wanted my family. My family came here with yours. So if you choose to go, it will be my honor to go with you, the Izawas serving the Kaijitsu again, as ever.”

“And they say I chew the scenery,” Jethrik mumbles.

“Hey wait a minute,” Keng says. ”Are we going to Maginar for some fun or heading off on another quest right away?” He turns to Jharad with a raised eyebrow.

Jharad smiles at Keng’s enthusiasm. Turning to look at Ameiko he says, “That depends on Ameiko.”

“What do you have in mind, Ameiko?” Toshio asks. “Can you hold off until I get back from Magnimar?”

Ameiko looks to Sandru. Sandru shrugs and says to her, “You know I won’t refuse you Ameiko, though it is against my better judgment.” He looks to Koya and Jethrik and says, “It seems our caravan will be heading north with extra passengers and formidable new guards.”

He turns back to Ameiko. “It will take a few days to plan and prepare. Provisions and supplies must be purchased, and we will need at least one more wagon if not more.”

Ameiko smiles and gives Sandru a brief hug. “I knew I could count on you Sandru. I will, of course, finance this expedition; so don’t worry about getting more wagons. I also will need to make sure my house staff at my estate and employees here at the Rusty Dragon will be able to take care of things while I am away.”

She turns to Toshio, “I don’t want to delay, but there is no rush. So please do what you need to do in Magnimar. When you return we will set out for Brinewall.

Jharad turns to Keng with a big smile saying, “And there is your answer my friend.”

Keng smacks the table hard in affirmation and buries his head in the tankard.

Jharad then says to Toshio, “So what is your business in Magnimar. Will you need assistance?”

“Assistance?” replies Toshio. Looking at Sandru he says, “I don’t think so, unless Sandru needs another wagon brought from the city? But company on the road is always welcome, neh?”

Times and Timeline

Month Days in Month Season Associated Deity
Abadius (January) 31 Winter Abadar
Calistril (February) 28 Winter Calistria
Pharast (March) 31 Spring Pharasma
Gozran (April) 30 Spring Gozreh
Desnus (May) 31 Spring Desna
Sarenith (June) 30 Summer Sarenrae
Erastus (July) 31 Summer Erastil
Arodus (August) 31 Summer Aroden
Rova (September) 30 Fall Rovagug
Lamashan (October) 31 Fall Lamashtu
Neth (November) 30 Fall Nethys
Kuthona (December) 31 Winter Zon-Kuthon
Day Task
Moonday Work, religion (night)
Toilday Work
Wealday Work
Oathday Work, pacts signed, oaths sworn
Fireday Work, market day
Starday Work
Sunday Rest, religion