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.
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?”