"So Al, I hear you'll be heading North to Illden. I feel that I can trust you well enough to ask you a favour. After all, I've been covering your tab for months, and you've orderd a fair share of drinks.
Take this letter to Illden and give it to the first person who asks you about it. I don't know who you'll meet there, just keep it under raps until then."
The small leather pouch is marked with a small emblem in the shape of a hissing viper. It is sewn shut but something is rolling around inside. Possibly a coin.
Rilken, Shalazar and Illiaph meet again with Bishop Milani at the home of Terron Blackwell and discover that he will be carrying the gold in a magic bag on his person. They spend the next few days buying wagons, clothes, furs and mercenaries. Everything they need to disguise two caravans as simple fur merchants.
Alistyr pulls Rilken aside during the down-time and informs him about the package. The hissing viper isn't a religious symbol, but does remind them of several passages they read in Jodando's Memoir Excerpt. The passages describe a thieves guild called the Stone Lake Vipers. This guild was reported to have been destroyed by Jodando and St. Geshran hundreds of years ago. They open the package, planing to use mending to seal it up again afterwards.
Al and Rilken rush to their party and inform them of the letter. As a group they leave the city to test Alistyr's plan. Al pours his vial of shadow water into a shallow bowl and holds one of the shadowkeys over it. The jet-black water stops frothing and becomes mirror-still. Rilken probes the small pool with a stick but finds it's much deeper than he expected. He reaches an arm inside and feels something cold and metallic. He pulls out a small silver coin, worn from years of handling but still etched with the three leafed clover of Parun, the god of luck and debauchery.
Jodando's memoir, as well as common Empyrean myth describe the coin as a relic of Parun which changes the life of whomever finds it. It is benign and seems to serve no function until it is needed. Illiaph expresses a certain amount of apprehension at the thought of having another sought item and insists that they put it back into the water. Rilken ties it to his bracer, among the other trinkets he carries and assures Illiaph that they could use all the luck they can get.
The caravan crew gathers, leaving from Wingar to follow the road North to Findle City They purchase minor magic items while they stop. The city is bustling. Grain from Hemet is being distributed and rationed to the civilians and what remains is sent West to keep Wingar alive. The Materan Brotherhood supply what they can to keep Findle's capital city strong as Templar, in full regalia, walk the streets of the merchant quarter and keep the peace. Inquisitor Steelbraid disappears for several hours before returning. She keeps here whereabouts to herself as she cleans small flecks of red off of her armour.
The party keep a low profile and quickly leave Findle city, heading East along the Royal road through the villages and farms of Hemet. The roads are congested as they pass through pastoral Hemet. Aravyr Icewind and Leigh Lovelyfern insist that the caravan stop multiple times while they treat those who are sick or suffering along the road. Inquisitor Steelbraid stops the cart only once, to defile a small roadside shrine to Rhiannon the traveler, a non Empyrean deity. The trip takes twice as long as they anticipated.
Leigh and Dael exchange stories of Dael's mother and London Bucklebough. Bishop Milani spends nearly the whole trip humming to himself or speaking aloud about complex banking practices to nobody in particular.
The caravans arrive on the fifth night at the Longcrossing bridge. An ancient stone bridge that extends across a ravine near the Windwall cliffs. The town of Longcrossing is their next stop and it lay on the other side. A toll is demanded of each traveler based on what seems to be an arbitrary set of rules concerning number of axles and heads. Rilken vouches for the tolls legitimacy and pays the human and kenku guards.
The town of Longcrossing backs up to the Southern tip of the Scara mountain range and is a stones throw from the Wraithpine forest. A spire from the temple of Mortus is seen in the distance and serves as an indicator of the edge of the wilderness. Several years ago, a lich named Funiku Dorobo burned the village to the ground and killed the local Knights of the Brotherhood of the Raven stationed at the temple of Mortus. The same lich killed Rilken's family. The majority of the bodies were never recovered after they got back up and wandered into the Wraithpine.
The party pull up to the a large wooden inn, Longcrossing Lodge. Rilken is amazed that the inn has been rebuilt since last time he was home. The party occupy nearly every room in the inn, the last one being taken by a pair of armed Danasian men.
The night is restful for most of the party. Rilken wakes with a start, his heart pounding in his chest. A voice on the wind calls him to the forest. The creak of the branches in the wind echo his name. He opens the door to his room into the main hall and startles the Danasian men. They quickly throw a cloth over something on the table and move awkwardly to block his view. They demand that he mind his own business and when Rilken refuses, they launch a small needle at him.
Rilken tries to let out a warning to his companions but loses conciousness before he can. The thump of his body hitting the floor is enough for Dael's sharp ears to hear and she silently enters the room, letting out a panicked yell when she finds the Danasian men forcing the limp body of Rilken into an empty barrel.
A fight breaks out and Dael's pistols let the who village know. The Danasian men are master swordsmen and manage to hold their own until Illiaph and Shalazar overtake them with their magic. The last action of the swordsmen is to fling the bundle on the table into a nearby fireplace.
Dael's quick thinking with her Decanter of Endless Water puts the fire out and saves the bundle from being destroyed. Part of her wishes she hadn't as the bundle turns out to be five severed human thumbs.
The guards have no stomach for it and insist that they kill this Danasian scum immediately, hinting that they will repay this crime in turn. Dan's Rest is a city two days South from here. It was part of the concessions that Findle recently made since the official end of the Findle-Danasian war 14 years ago. It has been populated with Danasian warriors and has become an intimidating power in the years since king Pahlin Holt passed away. Many Danasians are still bitter at Findle for besieging the city and desecrating the tomb of the last True-Dan.
Aravyr Icewind identifies the thumbs as coming from older Findleite humans. From the look of them, she says, probably two nobles or merchants, and three workers or soldiers. With the number of travellers in the area, nobody would even notice if a few people disappeared.
Through their magical means, the party warps the mind of the surviving swordsman, hoping to get information.
The swordsman seems particularly evasive and well trained, revealing that he is a member of the Brotherhood of the Raven and seeks vengeance on those who defiled the tomb of the last True-Dan. Claiming that it was vile Findle necromancers who turned their emperor Sodansen's body against them. Illiaph accidentally lets slip his intention to kill the swordsman and in a panic, the Danasian man grabs the guards longsword and attempts to fight his way out. He is put down by Rilken, but not before the guards death.
The other guards rally around this tragedy and begin to talk about striking back at Dan's Rest to repay blood for blood.
If the Danasian truly was a knight of the Brotherhood then the Temple of Mortus might hold some clues. The party decide to investigate the temple in the morning. For right now, everyone needs a bit of sleep.