Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade. Part I

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It was good to be back. From where I was standing I could make out Dura District to my right and the solid edifice of Moorgrave University no more then two hundred yards away.

The question at the forefront of our minds was “what should we do now?” We needed somewhere with a little privacy where we could put together something resembling a plan so we stepped into a lift and descended to Dragon’s Towers. The area was a guild district dedicated to commerce. In fact no sooner had we stepped out of the lift then, there in front of us, was a huge, bull-headed tower belonging to Cannith South. Considering Lucan’s story I found this a rather ominous omen.

We soon found a pleasant hostelry called “The Aspiring Foodhall”. It clearly catered for people that worked in the area and, with our traveling cloaks and weapons, we looked a little out of place but it had a homely atmosphere. It also had several discrete alcoves into one of which we drifted. Over a pleasant meal we aired our views about what to do with the Schema and Creation Pattern. We all agreed that we should complete our contract with Lady Elaydren and give her the Schema. As for the Creation Pattern in my opinion we should sell it to Lady Elaydren too since keeping it was to invite too much trouble. Fraiya agreed with the selling part though he didn’t seem to concerned as to whom. Altera and Toryil believed that we should keep our discovery to ourselves until we could determine what the Creation Pattern was, on what we should do with it then they were a little vague. The idea of doing some research in to the Creation Pattern had first been floated while we were on The Cloud’s Destiny but in the days that had followed I had become less and less convinced as to the feasibility of such an undertaking.

War-Forged, quite rightly, had the most to say on the subject of what to do with the Creation Pattern. He was concerned that, if this really was what was needed to forge new war-forged that he had an obligation to do what was best for his people. He likened the idea of selling it to rounding up all the female humans in the world and selling them.

In the end it was decided, against my better judgment, to keep the Creation Pattern and that when we meet up with Lady Elaydren we would attempt to finesse a some answers out of her with a few subtle questions. I was concerned that my friends were looking for a perfect solution to the problem that didn’t exist and that we were floundering in waters too dark and too deep for us.

Towards the end of the meal we noticed a couple of new arrivals, a male half-elf with a finely decorated silver tunic and a female shifter with a large ear-ring. Like us they looked a little out of place and was it my imagination or were they paying a little too much attention to us?

Our meal was pretty much done so we paid and left. Our next port of call was the message station in Barnum Tower where we were supposed to leave a message for our employer notifying her of our return. On the way I popped into a store selling magical supplies and picked up another set of components for an Identify Spell. By now it was getting quite late and we needed a place to stay the night. We decided that it was best that, considering the events of the last few days, we stay together as much as possible. It was decided that we should head to The Horse and Hearth, the inn where Fraiya usually stayed, in North Market.

A quick ride in a sky-coach took us to our destination. The Horse and Hearth was a popular venue and we were unable to secure the common room, the only room large enough to accommodate all six of us. Instead we were able to get a three person room and a two person room that were pretty much next to each other.

Despite my fears that we would be paid a visit in the night by the shadow agents of Merrix Cannith, The Dark Lanterns, The Emerald Claw, The Lord of Blades and who knew who else the night passed without incident and the next morning the rain had even stopped.

After re-learning my spells I turned my attention to the chalice that we had recovered from Rose Quarry, an item that had until recently slipped my mind. It was certainly a handsome piece, cast from gold and engraved with the symbol of The Sovereign Host. Under the scrutiny of an Identify spell it was revealed to be “Olladras Chalice”, dedicated to the Olladra, the halfling goddess of feasts and good fortune. In the hands of a priest of The Sovereign Host the chalice had the power to purify any liquid placed in it. Not only that but twice a day that same priest could transform water poured into the chalice into holy water.

It was decided that Fraiya, Toryil and Altera would take the chalice to a church of The Sovereign Host and sell it to them while the rest of us headed for Moorgrave to try and learn some more about the Creation Pattern. The trip to the university was uneventful. War-Forged elected to stay outside. I asked Sek to stay with him, that way if War-Forged got into trouble I would be alerted via the magical link to my familiar and if we got into trouble Sek could warn War-Forged. Nev and I scoured the University library for all that morning and well into the afternoon and we didn’t even come close to finding a clue to prove or disprove that we had the war-forged Creation Pattern. We did manage to identity, by looking at pictures of other Creation Patterns, that our find was classed as a ”Major Creation Pattern“. We also found clues that it originated in the mysterious continent of Xen’drik.

Our researches having run into a dead end we picked up War-Forged and headed back to The Horse and Hearth. On the way we checked in at the message station and found a message waiting for us. It was from Lady Elaydren asking us to meet her at the Dragon’s Ante at dusk.

Back at the inn we found the others. It appeared that, despite a few initial misunderstandings in the negotiations, Fraiya had secured five hundred pieces of gold for the chalice. We quickly told our companions about what little we had discovered in the library and, more importantly, about our meeting with Lady Elaydren.

The region in which we found The Dragon’s Ante was an old one and it certainly had character. Over time it had become a hodgepodge of different architectural styles linked together by a confusing spider’s web of rope-bridges. From various buildings, presumably inns, taverns and pubs, could be heard sounds of singing and merry-making. Remembering the dangers that had come with our last meeting with Lady Elaydren I took the precaution of casting Mage Armour on myself and, in case there was any unseen dangers, a spell of See Invisibility for good measure.

The interior of The Dragon’s Ante was decorated to suggest a dragon’s cave with stone clad walls and furnishings. Against one wall was a large fireplace shaped like a dragon’s head, with fire burning in it’s mouth and twin trails of smoke rising from it’s nostrils. A noticeable percentage of the patrons were dwarves. We soon spotted a cloaked and hooded figure sitting at a table who’s build along with a few strands of golden hair visible under her hood suggested our employer.

It was indeed the Lady Elaydren and she looked rather worried, which did nothing to sooth my nerves. We handed over the Schema and as we did so told her about the Emerald Claw. When she heard that we had given them the copy of the Schema she commented that they now had two of them as she had heard news while we were in Mournland of The Emerald Claw acquiring one of their own. We also gave her the House Cannith signet ring we had found in Whitehearth as well as a copy of the map we had deciphered in Rose Quarry, for which she added a bonus to our reward.

My companions then tried to tease some indication from Lady Elaydren as to how much she knew about the Schemas and the Creation Pattern. War-Forged told her that the vampire leading The Emerald Claw had tried to question us about a Creation Pattern but this didn’t draw any useful information from Lady Elaydren. The others didn’t even have that much luck. The whole business didn’t sit we with me so, for once, I just kept my mouth shut.

Lady Elaydren wasn’t in the mood for a protracted interview and was eager to get going, leaving us with both her thanks and the money. She also left us the magical rucksack, which was very lucky as the Creation Pattern was still inside and we would have had a hard time removing it without her noticing.

With The Schema delivered we were free agents once again.

A cynical soul might say I had washed my hands of the Creation Pattern but I prefer to think I had placed the responsibility for it’s future, and perhaps the future of the war-forged as a race, in the adamantine hands of the one person who had their best wishes at heart, my comrade War-Forged. Of course my curiosity wouldn’t let me drop the subject completely and over the next week I used most of my spare time trying to find out more about the Creation Pattern’s purpose but to no avail.

It was a little more then a week later when we all meet up again. Most of us had been fairly busy. I had scribed a few scrolls, some Repairs Light Damage for War-Forged and some divination spells for myself. I was also the proud owner of a Glyph Book, detailing what was known of the ancient written languages of Xen’drik. My continued study, as well as the practical knowledge I was getting on our little expeditions, were increasing my grasp of the magical arts and I was able to decipher a couple of new spells from my spell book that had until then eluded me.

I hadn’t see much of Toryil over the week but I soon learnt that my elven friend had been putting himself through an intensive regime to master the use of Talaen Kara.

As we chatted and caught up we were approached by a messenger wearing the blue and silver of House Orion who presented us with a sealed envelope. I looked it over but could find no indication who it was from.

Inside we two peaces of paper. To one were stuck four platinum pieces. The second, which was headed by a silhouette of a lantern with a “V” at it’s centre, told us that the platinum pieces  had friends that wanted to meet us. All we had to do was be at Mirriad Tower at noon and present the letter to the guard that we found there. We were warned to bring our traveling kit and a sense of curiosity. The noon deadline was a problem for War-Forged and myself but the others had time to collect their equipment before we headed for the tower. I would have to make do with what I had; which didn’t include my trusty club, crossbow and (most important of all) my spell book. On the plus side, since we had got involved with Lady Elaydren, I had made sure I learnt a few offensive and defensive magics each morning.

It was raining when we reached Mirriad Tower. The tower itself was square and rather non-descript. There was a heavy, black iron gate but I couldn’t see any sign of the promised guard until Fraiya pointed out an impressively filthy beggar leaning against the wall across from the door. First Fraiya went over to have a word with him and then War-Forged went to join them. There were a few minutes of hushed conversation and I’m sure I heard the phrase “wrong key” several times but when Fraiya returned the gate opened at his push.

We ascended for about fifty feet and found ourselves in a large glass-house. Contained within the rain drenched glass walls was a thick jungle, so thick that it was hard to tell just how large the room was. Just across from us was a table at which an old man with a pale complexion and gaunt features was working on arrange some rather impressive orchids. Beside him was rested a silver-tipped cane.

After a moment he introduced himself as “Viorr Maelak“. That explained the “V” in the symbol on the letter so what did the dark image of a lantern signify…?

He wanted to offer us a job but before he employed us there was a little “test” we had to undertake. Saying this he produced six vials from a pouch . For a few seconds I thought he might want us to determine the nature of the vials’ contents, a challenge I felt qualified to take up, but he quickly explained that they were healing potions. He left them with us because he didn’t want anyone getting maimed in the test; somewhere in the green house was a gorilla and we had to capture it, alive. At this rather unwelcome piece of news I started to eye the thick, green vegetation with a certain trepidation while casting a Mage Armour spell.

As Viorr hobbled off with his cane he gave us a final piece of advice; not only was the gorilla loose but it was very hungry!