Thrur and I set off to the castle and were allowed in, sans Ayman's stick figure drawing this time. We were led in and announced to the royal council: Prince Bernard; Marcus, Duke of Sternhelm (the prince's uncle); Lord Cordy, the exchequer; Bishop Sirius; and Jacquio of the Eye, the spymaster (or something of the sort). I read the letter I bore from the mayor of Logging Town and was told that they would send soldiers to his aid. I was also informed that the duke's men would escort the priests of the Brotherhood of Dread to anti-magic cells (ha...). Afterward Thrur gifted the prince with his mithril crown and asked for permission to sail north to retrieve his people in order to work the once-goblin mine to the south; he was told by the prince that they would talk after he and his people returned to Rinos. After leaving the castle, SwampFox and I realized we were being followed by a beggar of sorts, but he fled before we could catch him. I ran into him one more time that day and realized he was staring at SwampFox, but learned nothing else at this time.
Meanwhile Linora, Vordb and Shocko went off on their adventure to the less savory parts of the city in order to glean information. Ayman went to the Temple of Apollo to search for books. We met up later at the castle where the entire party now met the prince's council. After telling him of some of our adventures, the prince spoke with us in private (private other than his guard Sir Rodney). There he entrusted us with important information: he did not know who he could trust but we were recommended by the guildmaster; he feared an attempt on his life and that his father's illness was not natural and that someone on the council could be the cause, but he did not know who. We agreed to help and our plan was to split up to try to retrieve information.
Digging up information took me all around the city as well as out of its walls. I spoke with the Head Messenger and, in short, was told that he knew and trusted the bishop; Edward is a Messenger, and an important one, so I trust his judgment. He also gave me a bit of news of something that had been troubling me for a while, so that was a relief, although his vagueness wasn't entirely reassuring. After this, I set off to figure out just what the beggar was that had been shadowing me and SwampFox. We tracked him down to the stables near one of the gates and discovered a great surprise: the beggar was SwampFox's tribe's shaman. This was particularly surprising because both SF and I had thought that he was the only orc remaining on this continent. WhiteBoar told us of what had happened to the rest of their tribe and gave SF his brother's war mask... thing. We took WB back to the Messengers' Mosque with us and fortunately he is allowed to stay there, at least for as long as I am in Rinos (we will take him with us when we leave). Next I snuck out of the city in disguise (it had been a very long time since I've used one of those!) and met with a group of brownies. They were somewhat helpful, giving me news of a green dragon flying through the area and where it had been seen, and also about the many people traveling the roads and the king building an army, which was a bit less helpful. Still, they were friendly and this gave me an opportunity to be someone else for a bit, so I consider it time well spent. Back in the city later, I was given a delivery assignment from the mosque and went to one of the taverns, where I met with the owner; he handed me and SwampFox crates of wine from Lord Cordry's vineyards. Lord Cordry was actually there at the time, playing cards with a few other men. The next morning I had a brief private meeting with my brother Kendric where I told him of our task from the prince; he warned me to be careful (he always warns me to be careful; is he like this with his other little brother, too?) and said that Lord Cordry owns many establishments in Rinos, some reputable, some not and that certain people are aware and turn a blind eye since he's shored up coin to finance the realm. Ken told me he'd do what he could to help my friends and I, but when I asked, was also rather vague on that personal subject I have been worried about. Sigh.
While I was running around the city, Ghost went off to train with the guard and soldiers at the castle, also apparently ending up with information from my brother. Linora, Vordb and Shocko continued their unsavory information gathering in the lower parts of the city. Ayman met with the bishop to talk about books or something of the sort and likely gleaned some information from him, then met with WhiteBoar at the mosque, and later snuck around outside invisibly to spy on gossip, running into Jacquio while doing so. He and Ghost then went with Jacquio to the castle and learned about the king's state of health and situation and the like from him.
The next day, Sir Thopas found us at the inn and asked if we had seen Dwight, who had not been seen since the night before. We went to the castle and discovered that none of the guards had seen him since the previous night, either, but that Marcus had been around this morning (Dwight had last been seen in his company). We learned from the steward at the castle that he had last seen Dwight touring the dungeon with Marcus the night before- this got us extremely suspicious, if we were not enough already. We headed down to the dungeon and told the guard that we would like to see the Brotherhood of Dread priests (while I asked my pet fox to smell for Dwight in case he was around). Once on the third level, my fox caught the scent and began pawing at one of the cell doors. We quickly got that door opened and rushed in to find Dwight gagged and tied up; we quickly freed him and Dwight said that the duke was not who he says and that the one priest of Dread was missing. While the rest of the group ran to the gate to try to follow “Marcus”, SwampFox and I went to find the remaining priest, who was still Charmed from my beguilement. I showed Tarus a map and was told that Ruger (the other priest) went back to their temple to the west, past the kingdom's border. After getting this information, I followed the rest of the group who had since learned that “Marcus” had come back twenty minutes before- without the two guards from before (one of which was Ruger, we know).
We rushed to Marcus' chamber, leaving Dwight at the gate. There we became blocked in by suits of armor/statues/whatnot that moved; a few of these remained moving pieces of armor, but some turned into skeletons of some sort. We began fighting and Ayman was able to ensnare “Marcus” and one of the skeletons in a magical spiderweb. We took out “Marcus'” guards, Shocko ran off to find the palace guards, and the fake Marcus finally revealed his true form: a doppleganger. Despite being caught in a magical web, he refused to give us any information until Vordb called rats to appear and begin biting at him; then he told us that the “Dark One” sent him here to get rid of the duke six months ago so that he could spy on the prince and to kill the king and prince with poison, and that Ruger had gone where Tarus had said- to their sanctum to the west and that the duke was there, as well.
During combat one of the suits of armor had slid into one of the walls, revealing a secret door. Behind this Ghost discovered a table filled with an alchemical apparatus, the items that had been used to poison the king. The guards arrived as I was healing the doppleganger from the damage inflicted when Ghost set the magical web on fire to destroy it and get him out (yes, he didn't deserve healing, but setting the web on fire in the first place was not the way to go about this, in my opinion, but what do I know, I'm just a good priest...). The guards took him away to the cells and we went to find Dwight and the prince before going to the king's chamber. Dwight, a paladin of great skill, with great effort healed the king, who was quite relieved to be healthy again. The prince led us to the throne room and his council, entirely confused. Ghost explained everything that had happened and Dwight said that it was a magical disease fed very slowly to the king. The king, feeling much better, gave us a new quest: retrieve the duke and go after the Brotherhood of Dread. Dwight was given a different task, though, that will involve heading east instead of west. The king gifted us a few items that we would need for our task and then sent for Tarus. Much to my displeasure, Tarus was told that he would come along with us and that if he assisted us, he would get a fair trial when he returned. When Tarus asked where we were going, sounding quite distraught, he asked for a black pearl, which we would need to get into the temple. This we were given.
Later that day we set out from Rinos, heading west. I asked Tarus about the pearl and was told that you can only get into the door of the temple on a night of the new moon, or the full moon if you have a pearl. There are enchantments guarding the door and that you cannot see it without that object; if there is no moonlight, the door is visible, however, and that the pearl is a cheat. When asked how we could get out, he said ever so helpfully, “Don't die”. Still Charmed, he was absolutely terrified of where we were going and said he would rather be back in the cell. Perhaps beguiled, he has finally acquired some senses; it is rather a shame that he is going to revert back to evil very soon, so I am keeping an eye on him should my spell wear off and I had his hands tied together and to the saddle of his horse. Charmed he may be, but I do not trust him.
The next morning Shocko made breakfast (surprisingly!), but we did not have the opportunity to try it. We heard rustling in the bushes and eleven huge, giant beetles charged out at us in their goal of eating our porridge. Ghost knocked the pot a few feet away and the beetles swarmed, badly injuring Shocko (who still smelled of honey) and Vordb, who was already injured from our battle with the doppleganger. Luckily I had already saddled the horses so we quickly fled away, stopping only briefly to rest. We met a farmer on the road coming the other way with a cart loaded down with corn; this is fortunate for him, and also us, as he led us to Cornwell, the nearest village. When we walked into the inn, the innkeeper saw the shape the party was in and found a doctor for Vordb and Shocko. He said Shocko just needed rest but that the claw marks on Vordb were very bad and healed him as best he could. The next morning we found a priest of Apollo in town and while explaining what had happened with the doppleganger battle, Tarus chimed in to say that Vordb desperately needed a priest who could cure diseases as this was most definitely fatal if not treated as soon as possible. (No wonder the rest of the group is starting to trust Tarus if he is being so helpful; I just wish they would realize this is temporary helpfulness.)
As there were no priests of this power in Cornwell, we fled back to Rinos, rushing Vordb to the Temple of Apollo in the city. The abbot was able to heal Vordb, and Shocko as well, and the next morning we set out once again. We traveled for another day or so until Tarus asked if we had planned on riding at the speed we were currently going to get there. It was here that we learned that we would need to reach the Brotherhood of Dread temple within four days and it would likely take us about two weeks at that rate. After debating how we could speed up, I cast a spell to make what we carried lighter for the horses and we rode hard, trading our tired horses for new ones with the help of my animal knowledge and Linora's... er... cleavage, I think. Hurrying on, we made it to Hightower, a town on the border, on the 2nd day of Brightmoon, leaving us about two days from the gorge. If we continue to hurry, we should still be able to get there while the moon is still full.
~Cyneric Conroy, Order of the Fleet Fox
July 4th, 2nd day of Brightmoon